Discovery of Preliminary Asteroid by Aerospace Engineers from UPES Dehradun

Discovery of preliminary asteroid by UPES students

The vast universe has always intrigued us. In our childhood, we all have
counted the stars in the night sky and wondered about the outer space.
Aerospace engineers explore this wonderful space.

Vhahishta Farzad Antia and Vidit Aggarwal, aerospace engineering students of UPES (University of petroleum and energy studies), Dehradun, participated in the “Asteroid hunt” competition organized by the International Asteroid Search Campaign.

Vhahsishta and Vidit
upes student preliminary asteroid

After a diligent effort of about a month, Vhahishta, along with Vidit,
successfully discovered a Preliminary Asteroid. Its information and details will be researched by the IASC.

Vhahishta credits this success to the nurturing environment at UPES.

Vhahishta, Vidit at UPES

She genuinely believes that space education is very important for progress in the field of science and technology that plays a major role in the overall development of a nation.

In her interview with DehradunTales, the 19-year old UPES student shares her words of wisdom:

Follow your dreams or passions, however absurd they may seem to anybody because at the end of the day real happiness comes from doing the things you like, not anybody else.”

DehradunTales congratulates the duo for this achievement and wishes them all the success for their future.

Read the full interview of Vhahishta to know about her journey, hobbies, dreams, believes, and much more.

Full interview of Vhahishta

Q. Before going into the details of the project, please tell us about yourself.

I was born in the city of Mumbai in the year 2001. I was 6 years old when I moved to Dubai and have lived there ever since.

I identify myself as a person with a deep desire to learn and gain knowledge. Seeking new things to do and grow as a person has always been my agenda in life.

I am a voracious reader and love indulging in works surrounding people, mythology, cultures, traditions, and much more.

Music is an inherent passion of mine and I love listening to good music and creating some of my own.

I have a passion for aircraft and related study which led me to the course I am pursuing at the moment.                           

Q. What were the reasons behind choosing aerospace engineering?

I was always a child that ran to the nearest window to watch an aircraft fly by. The sheer thought of such a massive machine flying thousands of feet in the air always amazed me.

I had known that I wanted to choose something in the aviation sector and that eventually led to my decision of studying aerospace engineering

Q. What is the International Asteroid Search Campaign?

The IASC stands for international astronomical search collaboration which enables citizens around the world to make original astronomical discoveries by providing them with high-quality astronomical data.

The AIASC (All India Asteroid Search Campaign) is a campaign organized by the IASC, under which we were able to participate in the asteroid hunt.

Q. When did you start working on this project and what are the further step pertaining to this discovery?

Our team was selected for the AIASC on the 4th of June, 2020. We worked on the image sets given to us from the 12th of June to the 10th of July.

UPES students dicover Preliminary asteroid

Our discovery was a preliminary one, information, and details of which will be researched by the IASC.

Q. Tell us the journey behind the discovery and what challenges did you face during the research?

During the one month span of the campaign, we were given multiple image sets which we had to analyze in detail for any potential asteroids or moving objects. After analyzing each image set, we sent the report to IASC.

The most tedious part of the campaign was the countless hours of staring into the software looking meticulously for the moving objects, which got quite exhausting on a few days.

Apart from that, the software we used, Astrometrica, was a fairly easy software to work with and we were given adequate training on how to use it by our seniors and subordinates at college.

Being able to do the campaign from the comfort of our homes was also quite an advantage. After submitting all the reports from the image sets, we received news on the 15th of July about our preliminary discovery.    

Q. How is the environment at UPES for space studies and what kind of response did you receive from your college?

The environment at UPES is extremely nurturing for its students. We are also part of the Infinity Space Club, which is the first Astronautical society of Dehradun.

My interest in Space has always been nurtured and encouraged by the club as well as our faculty.

The college is very supportive of all the activities and projects we undertake at our club. We were introduced to the IASC by our club and were taught and encouraged by our seniors to participate in it.

An extremely friendly and confidence-boosting environment is created at UPES, especially in the club that enables us to widen the horizons of our knowledge on space and other fields, something which isn’t very encouraged in every other part of the country.

Q. How do you see Space Education in India?

Slowly yet gradually, I feel people have started acknowledging the potential in space studies. Children of our generation are finally starting to own their interests and taking it up as a further course of study.

Although in many parts of the country, it is still seen as a future science that might not make much sense to a lot of publicity due to its current scenario I do see a shift in this attitude and am confident that in the next few years many more people would want to take up space studies and work in the field for a better tomorrow.

Q. What are the benefits of space research for any nation?

This is a question I asked a lot when I initially got into this field. My presidents at Infinity Space Club gave me a fairly good idea about why space research is so important and can’t be ignored.

To start with, research in space science gives jobs to millions of people in the country. Apart from this, it helps boost the economy of the country.

Foreign governments and companies invest in technologically advanced countries and what better advanced than a country that can successfully build Anti-satellite weapons or good launch vehicles.

In the current scenario, we use so many things that we wouldn’t even have if it wasn’t for all this advancement in space study.

The CAT scans in the medical field were invented during the Apollo missions. Solar cells were invented to power spacecraft and countless other materials have been invented during the course of space research that now helps accelerate the defense industries, electronics and communication industry, aviation market and so much more.

I think it is fairly established that space research leads to countless inventions that not only create the possibility for a better future but also enhance the existing technologies of the country.

Q. Do you think that India still being a developing country, having manifold responsibilities can afford to pursue space research which is a very costly affair?

The first thing to understand is; no country can make progress if they have a linear approach to making advancements in the country.

If we were to start solving problems and investing in things one after the other, we would become one of the most backward countries in the world.

Space study is very essential, that is a sure thing. Indeed it is a costly affair but India is one of the only countries that do space missions at an extremely cheap cost that sometimes can be lesser than the budget of a Hollywood movie.

Having said that, one might think that money can be used for better purposes such as to eradicate poverty or to create jobs or towards the betterment of life. But the people who set the Union budget already dedicate enough amount of money towards each of these causes.

Our country is a fairly self-sufficient country that has enough and more resources to eradicate these so-called problems or fulfill its responsibilities towards its people.

The problem lies in execution. Corruption, dishonesty, caste divisions and so many other issues lead to this allocated money not being used for the right purpose. It is not a lack of money; it is a lack of execution that is a problem.

So questioning investment in space research while the country has other responsibilities, is quite meaningless, because as much as it is required, even if we were to completely stop the funding towards space study, these other problems would never get solved because lack of planning and execution would lead to them happening over and over again.

Q. Who is your role model or source of inspiration?

I must say I have a set of extremely intellectual, dedicated and knowledgeable seniors in my club at college.

Being able to relate to their journeys in college, having the same interests and passions gives me a path to follow. Their work and dedication motivate me and their constant encouragement helps me push myself.

Apart from this, my mother is my biggest role model and source of inspiration. She has always motivated me to do what I want and without her, I wouldn’t be where I am. Her everyday attitude towards life and work inspires me and makes me want to be like her.

Q. What are your immediate future plans and where do you see yourself 10 years down the line?

I am a firm believer in living in the present and don’t ponder much on the future but I do hope to be able to complete my bachelor’s in Aerospace with flying colors after which I plan to move to the USA for further studies.

10 years down the line seems like a very long time so I can’t be sure about how that’ll look like but I sure do want to be able to perform my very best in whatever I pursue.

Q. What message would you like to give to the readers of DehradunTales?

I would just like to tell everyone to follow their dreams or passions however absurd they may seem to anybody. Because at the end of the day real happiness comes from doing the things you like, not anybody else.

Also, never choose your field of study thinking about the job you can get later. Many people step back from their dreams because they think that there’s no scope for it in the future.

But guess what, you can start and build the scope. Go ahead and choose what you like irrespective of what you’re told because I can guarantee this, you will work the hardest and you will work to the best of your capabilities ONLY when you are in love with what you are doing.

That’s pretty much my only advice as a 19-year-old to kids younger than me who might be reading this and have aspirations and dreams but are a tiny bit afraid to chase them.    

“It’s okay to be afraid, but taking that risk is what will make all the difference.”



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