What do typical 13-year-olds usually do? Whatever it is, finding asteroids is not part of the usual answer. Studying about the universe and passionately reading Stephen Hawking isn’t either, but for Miguel Rojas it is. For Miguel Rojas, however, it is. Who is he? The 13-year-old who discovered an asteroid.
At his age, he understands things that to others is mere science fiction. He is a Venezuelan student. He likes mathematics, biology, languages and geography. But it is the science of space that he is passionate about. And he has a clear goal: to be a space engineer.
“All my life I’ve been interested in space. From a very young age. My first books pushed me to learn more about astronomy and science”. Among them, there is an Atlas of Space, books by Stephen Hawking or Kip Thorne (an eminence in the matter).
He is attracted by complex subjects: Why is time curved? What are wormholes? Is time travel possible? Discovering an asteroid is part of his natural learning process. He hopes one day to work at NASA. “It all started by watching YouTube videos. When I was 5 or 6 years old, I would watch the videos and say to myself, ‘Mom, I want one of those books,'” says Mary Ramos, his mother.
But if there’s one thing that gave her a boost, it was Stephen Hawking. His parents had to look outside the country for his books. “He read the books. And because he didn’t understand it he would read it again, look for more videos on YouTube. It was easy for him. And he would even explain it to me, who don’t know about it.”
In Barquisimeto, where Miguel lives, another young Venezuelan had discovered an asteroid in 2012. And now he was organizing campaigns to search for asteroids. Miguel met that group. In addition, he advises young people with high abilities, talent and giftedness.
The 13-year-old teenager who discovered an asteroid began his searches there. There is a program sponsored by the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC). It provides access to images taken by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System. It is dedicated to detecting new asteroids and any type of near-Earth object.
After reviewing the images, Miguel found the object. He sent in his report, and an astronomer corroborated that the object found is new. But it doesn’t end there.
The discovery is sent to different observers all over the planet. They will point their telescopes at the same point in the sky. This phase can take several months.
Finally, this December, the certificate arrived confirming it. It bears the signatures of the IASC, NASA and the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Hawaii.
“I would like to work at NASA. I want to be a space engineer and make a contribution to the world, to humanity. That is my dream. Science and astronomy are the future of both humanity and technology”.