8-Year-Old Asteroid Hunter From Brazil Is "World's Youngest Astronomer"

Nicole Oliveira with her telescope. Image credit: Jarbas Oliveira/AFP

Despite spending just 8 years on planet Earth, one girl has already made a bold impression on the solar system. 

Nicole “Nicolinha” Oliveira, from Brazil, has been dubbed the “world’s young astronomer.” In a recent interview with AFP, Nicolinha explained that she’s already discovered 18 preliminary detections that could be asteroids.

The preliminary observations still have to be certified, a process that can sometimes take years. However, any of the detections hold strong, she will become the youngest person in the world to discover an asteroid. This will break the record of Luigi Sannino, who discovered an asteroid now named 12575 Palmariaat aged 18 back in 1999. If her directions stand up to further scrutiny, she hopes to name the asteroids after famous Brazilian scientists and members of her family. 

Nicolinha has recently been part of the Asteroid Hunters, a project run by International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) and Brazil's ministry of science designed to get people interested in astronomy. So far, the project has seen hundreds of citizen scientists from around the world – from India and Iraq to Spain and Nigeria – make at least 185 preliminary detections, including 85 objects discovered. In the latest campaign, IASC says Nicole made seven preliminary detections.

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"When she was two, she would raise her arms to the sky and ask me, 'Mom, give me a star,' Zilma Janaca, her mother, told AFP.

"We understood that this passion for astronomy was serious when she asked us for a telescope as a birthday present when she turned four. I didn't even really know what a telescope was," Janaca added.

Just just like any young buck with their head in the stars, a quick look at Nicolinha’s room will tell you she’s deeply obsessed with space. Along with the computer she uses to flick through images of space to hunt asteroids, her room is covered with Star Wars toys, astronomy posters, and astronaut-themed decorations. From this computer, she also broadcasts her YouTube channel where she’s interviewed a number of big names in the world including Brazilian astronomer Duília de Mello and Andressa Costa Ojeda, an aspiring female astronaut from Brazil.

Nicolinha has arguably achieved a fair amount in her short life so far, but it looks like her astronomical ambitions have just begun.

"I want to build rockets. I would love to go to the Kennedy Space Center at NASA in Florida to see their rockets," she said.

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