Two IIT Bombay students credited to spot closest known asteroid to flyby earth

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Credit to IIT Bombay (Image: Twitter)
Credit to IIT Bombay (Image: Twitter)

New Delhi : Two Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay) students have been credited for spotting an asteroid, that is known to be the closest asteroid to fly by Earth.

On August 16, the asteroid was measured at a distance of just 2,950 kms from the earth's surface.

IIT Bombay students Kunal Deshmukh and Kritti Sharma, working on a research project, discovered this object just hours later using data from the robotic Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) in California.

The asteroid has been named 2020 QG and it is known to be the closest asteroid to fly by Earth without impacting the planet, an IIT-Bombay press statement said. 

Prior to this, the closest asteroid to pass by earth was 2011 CQ1, discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in 2011, which passed above Earth about 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers) higher than 2020 QG.

Kritti and Kunal Deshmukh were analysing ZTF data on Sunday afternoon and reported five “streaks” in the data as potential asteroids. 

"The data looked like all other Near Earth Asteroids we have seen so far," said Kunal, a final year student in the department of Metallurgy and Materials Science at IIT Bombay.

Kritti was overjoyed: "Helping make a discovery like this, so early in my research project, is beyond what I had ever imagined!" said the third-year undergraduate student of IIT Bombay’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. 

Their advisor, Prof.Varun Bhalerao, said: “It is wonderful to see these students coming from diverse backgrounds and contributing to astrophysics research. We are very excited about our next phase: studying such objects with the robotic GROWTH-India Telescope at Hanle, Ladakh”.