October 20, 2021

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Eight-year-old Brazilian Nicolina … an asteroid hunter

Nicole Oliveira reached the sky to catch the stars when she took her first step, and this eight-year-old Brazilian girl became an asteroid hunter astronomer.

On the walls of his room in Fortaleza (northeastern Brazil), not pictures of music stars, but a large map of the solar system. On one shelf, a blonde doll appears to be lost between miniature rockets and Star Wars characters.

But her fishing field is a computer with two large screens placed near her bed. Through them, a woman named Nicolina lovingly observes images of the sky sent by asteroid hunters.

The project aims to introduce young people to science through direct involvement in discoveries, and is a partnership between the Brazilian Ministry of Science and the US space agency NASA’s International Cooperation Agency for Astronomical Research.

“I’ve found 18 so far!” The girl with long dark brown hair proudly tells AFP.

Knowledge sharing
If Nicole’s discoveries are confirmed, it could take many years before she officially becomes the youngest person in the world to discover an asteroid, and she can surpass the record of Italian Luigi Sunino, who discovered an asteroid at the age of eighteen. .

Then it has the right to call the meteorites names they like. “I would give her the names of Brazilian scientists or my family members like my mom or dad,” he says.

Elumarcio Rodriguez Morera, a professor of astronomy at the school she attended since the beginning of this year, confirms that she has “an insight” into the field.

He said, “She notices instantaneous image points that look like asteroids, and often advises her classmates when they are not sure they found her.” She believes that “the most important thing is that she shares her knowledge with other children, thus contributing to the spread of science.”

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Nicolினnia has already thanked her family friends for their astronomical videos on YouTube, online participation in the International Science Symposium and help answering all requests.

Telescope Business Parties
In January, her parents did not hesitate to move to Fortaleza, 1,000 kilometers from Macio, another city in northeastern Brazil, where their daughter could receive a scholarship to a prestigious institution. Her father’s computer company agreed that he would continue to work remotely.

“When she was two years old, she would raise her hands to the sky and say to me,‘ Mom, give me a star, ’” said her mother, Jelma Janaka, 43, who works in the craft industry.

“But when we asked for a telescope as a gift for her fourth birthday, we realized that this interest in astronomy was intense. I don’t even know what a telescope is.”

“She told us she was willing to trade all of her birthday parties for a telescope, but it was still too expensive for us. We could not buy it until she was seven, thanks to the help of friends,” Mom continues.

Organizers of astronomy classes who encountered Nicolinia’s early talent did not hesitate to lower the minimum age for enrollment in these courses, which is often reserved for those over the age of twelve.

On his YouTube channel, Nicole interviewed many personalities, including the famous astronomer Tulia de Mello, who participated in important discoveries such as the supernova (SN 1997D).

Last year, I went to Brasilia and met with the Minister of Science and former astronaut Marcos Pontes, who has been a Brazilian astronaut until now.

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But Nicholas has other ambitions. “My dream is to become an aerospace engineer,” he says. “I want to build rockets. I want to go to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and see their rockets.”

“I want all children in Brazil to have access to science,” he adds.

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