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11-Year-Old Mexican Girl, Ashley Martínez Discovers Asteroid — And Gets to Name it

An 11-year-old girl from Morelos, Mexico, named Ashley Martínez has made history as the first Mexican girl to discover an asteroid. Ashley was already working in collaboration with Urania Astronomical Society, which recruits students to analyze images of outer space, reports El Heraldo de México.

A statement from Ashley confirms, “They were sending us blocks of four images, which we had to carefully analyze some moving object. From those images you had to see which object moved uniformly, that is, it was like jumping. From there you marked it and sent the report and from there the IACS would inform you later if what you indicated was indeed an asteroid.”

In Ashley’s case, she was analyzing images from the Pan-Starrs, a panoramic survey telescope located in Hawaii that is also equipped with a rapid response system and two telescopes each 1.8 meters long. In March 2021, Ashley had examined more than 30 photographs and, according to astronomer Cassidy Davis, made “original observations” regarding the photos.

Astronomical experts at NASA then monitored the asteroid’s orbit before confirming Ashley’s discovery earlier this month. Ashley said, “It took a long time to find the asteroid, since I had to analyze several images carefully, not to miss anything; it was complicated by occasional software glitches that confused me, but once I identified it I was very proud.”

The asteroid has officially been designated as 2021 FD26, but Ashley will have an opportunity to name the asteroid after it is formally identified by the International Astronomical Union.

Additionally, Ashley has been awarded a diploma from the International Astronomical Search Collaboration, or IASC, and NASA, which sponsors the UAS program of which Ashley is a part, reports A News.

When Ashley was asked what she would name the newly discovered asteroid, she said, “It is a difficult question to answer, I still have a few years to think about it. The identification of new asteroids is very important because what if one of them hits the Earth? That is why it is relevant that experts and young people interested in astronomy who have the opportunity to discover them, do so,” according to The Observatorial.

The source also reports that, upon graduating elementary school, Ashley was invited to participate in the Olympiad of Knowledge in the state of Morelos, where she lives. “Although we are small, we can do great things, and even if we are very young, we can have great achievements, they can make great discoveries,” said Ashley.

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