SILCHAR: An asteroid named “2022 OR13” has been registered in the ‘Minor Planet Center’ of the International Astronomical Union, and it was identified by the Silchar based citizen science group called ‘Astrogen.” Dr. Himadri Sekhar Das, the team leader of Astrogen and an Associate Professor of Physics at Assam University received an email from an official of the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) on Tuesday informing him about the discovery. Other members of the group are Oishee Jyoti, Akashdeep Mohanta, Saikat Majumdar, Tanushree Bhattacharya, Saptadip Sen, Saunak Bhattacharya, and Sanchali Nath Majumdar. Oishee Jyoti, a student of class VII is Dr. Das’s daughter.
Asteroid search campaigns, also known as asteroid discovery campaigns, are popular citizen science projects facilitated by the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC). Citizen science refers to public participation in scientific research, where individuals or groups collect, report, or analyze data independently or in collaboration with professional scientists. IASC is a citizen science programme that offers high-quality astronomical images to citizen scientists worldwide, free of charge. NASA and the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PAN-STARRS) in the Hawaiian Islands are involved in the project. Citizen scientists are provided with various night sky images, primarily from PAN-STARRS, and they use the ‘Astrometrica’ software to detect asteroids. The campaign typically lasts for around 25 days each month. To date, citizen scientists have initially identified 12,307 asteroids, out of which only 78 are on the provisional detection list.
Asteroids are objects that orbit the Sun in a vast region between Mars and Jupiter, known as the Asteroid Belt. According to scientists, when the solar system’s other planets were forming, another planet was expected to develop in the space between Mars and Jupiter, but for unknown reasons, it did not form. As a result, there are millions of asteroids of varying sizes in that region. The largest known asteroid is Ceres, which has a diameter of 945 kilometers. Some asteroids come very close to Earth as they orbit the Sun, and they are referred to as “Near Earth Asteroids.” In the past, certain asteroids have collided with earth, causing significant damage. Scientists believe that the extinction of dinosaurs was caused by the impact of comets or asteroids on earth. So far, approximately 9,000 Near Earth Asteroids and about 600,000 asteroids of various sizes have been discovered.
Dr. Himadri Sekhar Das stated that the ‘Astrogen’ Citizen Science Group was established to promote astronomy among students in various schools and colleges in Barak Valley, as well as the general public. The group has a Facebook page and has seen participation from many astronomy enthusiasts in different campaigns. The first campaign began on March 29 of the previous year, and since then, Astrogen has participated in around ten campaigns, initially discovering 40 asteroids. Upon completion of the campaign, they receive a certificate from the IASC that includes NASA’s name.
Astrogen has received support from Shovan Acharya, the Team Leader of the ‘SA Citizen Science Group,’ in various ways. The team shares sets of images of different night sky regions obtained during the campaign, and the members scrutinize these images using software to identify asteroids. After discovery, the asteroids are placed on the preliminary identification list. Subsequently, scientists from the Minor Planet Center carefully observe them and report the final results. It is not necessary for the first detected celestial object to be an asteroid. This process takes several months. Out of the 40 asteroids discovered by Astrogen, only one is currently listed as a ‘provisional detection.’ It will be included in the final list after further observation by scientists. Importantly, the citizen scientists from the Astrogen group will have the opportunity to rename 2022 OR13 once it is confirmed.
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