Schoolboy over the moon for discovering comet

 A Delhi student from Ahlson Public School, Mayur Vihar has discovered a new comet by using data from NASA and European Space Agency’s spacecraft-based observatory — SOHO which studies the Sun.

A class 12 student, 16-year-old Prafull Sharma, discovered the comet named SOHO 2333. It is a fragment believed to have separated from a relatively larger comet called Machholz when it last came close to the Sun in 2007.  The British Astronomical Association has also confirmed this finding and has included it in their list of newly discovered comets.

This discovery has made him the third Indian and 84th person in the world to discover a SOHO comet as part of the Sungrazer programme organised by Delhi-based Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) NGO.

Sharma, who has been associated with SPACE, has been part of a world-wide team of comet hunters who look through images of the Sun transmitted back to Earth with the help of Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).  

Sharma has also chased two eclipses, attended International Solar Eclipse Conference held in December, 2011 and has also participated in All India Asteroid Search Campaign 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“I had earlier discovered one provisional asteroid named QH80 and three preliminary asteroids during these campaigns. I am excited as this has become the highlight of my summer break,” said Sharma. He is also a member of a group of amateur astronomers headed by SPACE.

“SOHO comets are small comets that are usually found in close proximity of the Sun,” said Chander Bhushan Devgun, Chairman of SPACE said.

Most of these comets crash into the Sun and are believed to be never seen again. According to SPACE experts, such discoveries are crucial to help humans understand the dynamic nature of the comet population.

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