Dhruv Vyas Joshi – a 12-year-old – became the talk of the town when Nepal Astronomical Society (NASO) declared him as the youngest person from Nepal to find an asteroid. NASO further claims that he is the youngest one in the world with such discovery but it is yet to be verified. He was just 11 when he participated in the All-Nepal Asteroid Search Campaign 2019 and discovered an asteroid. All-Nepal Asteroid Search Campaign is a hands-on astronomy program for high school and university students with an opportunity to make original discoveries of asteroids free of cost.
Growing up listening to stories about space from his mother, he developed an early interest in astronomy. Dhruv’s mother Ekta Vyas is a graduate of Astrophysics and has been participating in ANASC for 16 years in which time she has found one asteroid.
A good mentor to her son, Ekta says, “We were just guiding him to follow his passion and find his interests but had not expected this achievement at an early age. However, I advise him not to carry a heavy responsibility. He can make mistakes, he can fail and learn more to pave the way to further success.”
Suresh Bhattarai, Chairperson of NASO finds him a curious child having quick learning capacity, critical thinking, and collaborative skills. “He can achieve much more if he gets proper guidance and mentorship,” he says. According to him, Dhruv’s success has helped promote the ANASC program as well as motivated many.
In conversation with WOW’s Pabita Dahal the young discoverer Dhruv speaks about his finding and his interests. Excerpts:
How do you describe your finding of an asteroid?
An asteroid is a rocky object that orbits the sun. The study of these rocky objects helps to give us an understanding of the universe formation and other space phenomena. Especially they are situated between Mars and Jupiter.
I found the asteroid which I have temporarily named as 2019-JP60. Later, I will rename it as DLP-0001 which stands for Dau Lal Pareek, my maternal grandfather.
How did you know about the All-Nepal Asteroid Search Campaign (ANASC)?
Having an interest in astronomy from an early age, I have been following NASO for a long time. I found about the campaign through Facebook.
How did you develop an interest in astronomy?
When I was about four or five year old, my mother was studying Astrophysics. She used to tell me simple stories about astronomy. Also I had my favourite storybook about the moon landing. I would read that every night and fantasise being part of a space mission. As I grew older, I also started reading more articles about space. When I joined NASO, there was no turning back.
How much time did it take to complete the project?
In the Asteroid Search Campaign, we go through the data and look for probable candidates. The report is sent to the Minor Planet Center. Then senior scientists verify it and specialists study more about it. The process from the first detection to confirmation takes six to seven months and a complete study takes four to five years.
What is the process?
After we register for the campaign, we get the training on using a software called Astrometrica which is used to analyse the data. Next we wait for the data of the space to be available by NASO.
nce we get the data, we download it from the cloud. We load it up in the software and carefully analyse it and submit the report to scientists. It goes through two stages: preliminary and provisional until it is confirmed as an asteroid. My finding has been proved as an asteroid. Now it is in the process of final study where specialists will study about its features.
NASO has claimed that you are the youngest asteroid discoverer in Nepal and maybe the youngest one in the world, how does that make you feel?
I don’t know about it. However, I hope this result will increase the number of children having an interest in astronomy. I was not able to form the team when I participated in the campaign for the first time since I was very young and seniors were not ready to take me in their team. But now we have young teams too. So it is encouraging. On a personal front, it has inspired me to explore more.
The role of family in your success
The contribution of parents and family was a great part of this discovery. They always support and encourage me. They allow me to do the things I am passionate about. They take me to places where I can grow my passion. And they also set the discipline rules for me which help me to stay concentrated.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My mother. She is always keen to learn and is a great teacher as well. She takes care of the whole family without any break. She does everything with full concentration and dedication. I look up to her.
Elon Musk is also my inspiration. He is a dreamer as well as an achiever. He is dedicated, adventurous and funny. I really like him.
What is your aim?
I want to become a rocket scientist. I have a long way to go.
How are you spending days now?
Apart from my online school classes, I attend many webinars related to robotics and designing. I am also learning to code through an online course. I hope to make my own video game one day. I am part of this year’s Asteroid Search Campaign as well.
Have you participated in any other competitions and programs related to astronomy?
I have participated in many programs. My interest in space took me to Astro fest, science fairs, and different workshops. I have taken part in space art, space poetry, and space app challenges. I was also part of the team which won the Space Apps Challenge 2019 at the regional level (South and Central Asia). I have participated in the Space Apps Covid 19 Challenge organised by NASA. Also, I have registered for the Space Apps Challenge 2020. I love to be part of any program that gives me an opportunity to boost my passion.
What are your other interests?
Apart from astronomy, I am interested in coding and game development. I am also fond of art. I like reading books and watching science fiction movies.