|In this section of the Graded Gazette, we celebrate extraordinary students and their outstanding accomplishments in academics, athletics, the arts, service work, and other extracurricular activities.|
Miro T. is still in the single digits with a mouth full of baby teeth. His youth is, in fact, one of the reasons this first-grader is famous. At the tender age of six, Miro has not only discovered 25 asteroids and been admitted into Mensa, but he is also the youngest person ever to have discovered an asteroid and the youngest Brazilian ever to be admitted into Mensa.
Miro has always been an inquisitive child with a particular taste for astronomy. When he was two years old, his parents took him to visit the Catavento Museum, where he immediately dragged them to the space exhibit. The displays of black holes, dwarf stars, and spiral galaxies engrossed him.
On another occasion, Miro's mother, Carla, set him down in front of the television. An episode of Carl Sagan’s docuseries Cosmos was playing, and she expected him to nod off quickly. Instead, he was fascinated by the program and eager to watch more, more, more.
This interest in astronomy led Miro and his parents to sign up for a Caça Asteroides (Asteroid Hunting) campaign sponsored by the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTI) in partnership with NASA and the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC). After attending a training session led by MCTI, Miro, aided by his mother, installed Astrometrica software on his computer and began his hunt.
IASC is a program intended to engage citizen scientists in the search for new asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs). In a series of campaigns, the citizen volunteers are given access to high-quality astronomical data obtained from the Pan-STARRS telescopes at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii. Working with that data, they have the opportunity to make original discoveries and assist in NASA’s planetary defense efforts.
During the first campaign in which he participated eleven months ago, Miro identified three previously undiscovered asteroids. Since then, Miro has participated in five more campaigns and identified an additional 22 asteroids, bringing his tally up to 25. His discoveries have earned him several accolades, including a plaque and telescope presented to him by former São Paulo Governor João Doria. He has also received a certificate from the MCTI and a medal from NASA presented to him by IASC founder, Dr. J. Patrick Miller.
Despite these honors, though, Miro is nowhere near done. He intends to continue his careful surveillance of the skies. Miro is also keen to share his love of space and science with others and have them join in his efforts to discover more asteroids. Recently, he founded an online astronomy club where members share information and learn to participate in IASC’s Asteroid Search Campaigns. He is also filming a step-by-step video that explains how to join a campaign and install and use Astrometrica software.
Though Miro is very young, he is passionate, focused, and persistent. His accomplishments demonstrate the value of citizen science. And they prove that anyone with enough drive and curiosity, even a first-grader, can positively impact the world. Congratulations, Miro!