8-year-old Alagoas could become the youngest asteroid hunter in the world

At the age of two, Nicole Oliveira Semio, from Alagoas, asked me for a star, it wasn’t just any toy star, but she wanted the one she saw in the sky, remembers the family.

The fascination for the Universe grew with the girl. At age four, to her parents’ astonishment, she wanted to exchange the birthday party for a telescope, bought at a sacrifice.

At six, she asked to take an initiation course in astronomy by CEAAL (Center for Astronomical Studies of Alagoas), a non-profit entity that was exclusive to young and for-profit adults, but due to their insistence, it was open to all ages.

Now, at the age of eight, Alagoas is awaiting evaluation by NASA, the American space agency, to officially receive the title of asteroid hunter. Nicole claims to have identified 18 new asteroids so far.

If the feat is confirmed, she becomes the youngest person to discover something of the genre. The recognition process, however, can take up to eight years to be completed.

CEAAL partner, Romualdo Arthur Caldas, who is a pathologist and amateur astronomer, says that the participation of Nicole in the course was highlighted. At first it surprised us. But now we know perfectly well that Nicolinha is very determined. Always very attentive to explanations and telescopic observations.

Since 2020, the little astronomer has also participated in the Caa Asteroides program, a project of the agency American space and the IASC (The International Astronomical Search Collaboration) in partnership with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The observation of asteroids takes place through an archive of images from an IASC-provided software. After the findings have been validated, the author of the findings can name the asteroids found.

I’m happy with the detections I made because I contributed to science in the world,” he says I want to put the names of my parents and Brazilian scientists , says Nicole.

For her, the interest in the research is proportional to the desire to promote the topic. That’s why he founded a science club aimed at children (@nicolinhaekids, on Instagram) and a YouTube channel to interview scientists and share what he learns with his followers.

The club is coordinated by her mother, Zilma Semio, but all classes are taught by professionals and specialists from each area. Zilma says that Nicolinha was accompanied by several scientists, such as astrophysicists Dulia de Mello and Paulo Leme, astronomer Romualdo Arthur Caldas and paleontologist Marcelo Adorna Fernandes.

Since January 2021the family moved from Macei to Fortaleza, where Nicole won a scholarship at the Farias Brito private school, including astronomy classes. Moving to another city required a radical transformation in the family’s life.

The mother, who is an arts artist, had to sell the tools to help change all of them. Little by little, she is starting her workshop again, where she creates items with the theme of astronomy. His father, Jean Carlo Lessa Semio, a systems analyst, got an agreement to work remotely.

Nicole studies in the morning, attends English and swim classes, but He is, according to his mother, still playing like any other child of his age. The rest of her time is dedicated to studies in astronomy.

During the night, she also interacts with her followers on social networks and with the support of the school where she studies , returned to giving face-to-face lectures on astronomy, after almost two years away because of the pandemic.

Nicole is still bi-champion of the Brazilian Astronomy and Astronomy Olympiad and collects certificates for courses and lectures on the topic. Her dream, she says, is to get to know NASA and work so that children have access to all of science, technology and astronomy. In the future, he also wants to major in aerospace engineering, to build rockets.

I’ve always been inspired by the universe, the stars when I started, and today I’m inspired by the [astrĂ´nomas] Duilia de Melo, Rosaly Lopes and not [ex-astronauta e atual ministro] Marcos Pontes, summarizes.

Like Nicole, other young Brazilian women also stand out in astronomy. Student Laysa Peixoto Sena Lage, 18, for example, recently discovered an asteroid through a new NASA campaign.

Recognition of the discovery took place in August and the star was named LPS0003, according to his initials. In the future, the young woman will be able to choose another name for him.

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