|Asteroid (78118) Bharat|
|Asteroid Named after India
The largest democracy in the world was honored by having an asteroid named after her on the eve of India's 58th Independence Day. Asteroids are minor planets that orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid, formerly known as 2002 NT, was discovered by the Indian amateur astronomer, Vishnu Reddy, on 4th July 2002 from Goodricke-Pigott Observatory in Arizona, USA. It is the first asteroid ever to be discovered by an Indian amateur astronomer.
After its orbit was accurately determined, the asteroid was numbered 78118 following which the fifteen-member Committee on Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) of the International Astronomical Union approved its official name as “78118 Bharat.” The name was suggested by Pratibha Kumar, Reddy's wife who is a graduate student in Communication at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, USA, and also an asteroid discoverer.
The official citation submitted to the CSBN reads: “Bharat is the native name of India and derives from the wise and pious King Bharata of ancient Hindu mythology. India is the motherland of the discoverer." It was published in the 13 July 2004 issue of Minor Planet Circulars/Minor Planets and Comets by the Minor Planet Center at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, USA, on behalf of Commission 20 of the IAU.
Bharat is a 2-3 km (2 to 3) diameter asteroid orbiting the sun once every four years in an elliptical orbit at an average distance of 379,340,000 kilometers. The orbit is inclined to the ecliptic plane by about 17º.
Working as a journalist in New Delhi then, Reddy first got inspired to discover asteroids after meeting University of Arizona professor Dr. Tom Gehrels in 2000. “Dr Gehrels was giving a talk at the Nehru Planetarium in Delhi and I went there only to get a good story, but at the end of the interview I had made up my mind that asteroids were my future.”
Reddy invested personal savings into the project and, with the help of a fellow amateur astronomer Roy Tucker of Arizona, USA, discovered the asteroid while observing from Tucker's Goodricke-Pigott Observatory on the eve of American Independence Day in 2002.
Since then, Reddy has given up his career as a journalist and is now a graduate student in Space Studies at the University of North Dakota, USA. He is currently working with his professors Dr Paul S. Hardersen and Dr Mike Gaffey studying composition of asteroids using telescopes on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Reddy also runs Spaceguard India, an organization involved in promoting awareness about asteroids in India.
A detailed account of the discovery of Bharat can be found at
Vishnu Reddy Kanupuru
Department of Space Studies
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks 58203
Spaceguard India: www.spaceguardindia.com
Roy Tucker's Goodricke-Pigott Observatory: http://gpobs.home.mindspring.com/gpobs.htm
JPL Orbit Simulation Page: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/orbits/
(Please enter 78118 or Bharat in the "Object Number, Designation, or Name" box and click search to see the current location of the asteroid)
Minor Planet Center: http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/mpc.html
|Asteroid (78118) Bharat Orbit Side View with Planets (Credit: NASA/JPL)|
|Simulated Images of Orbit & location of Asteroid (78118) Bharat on August 15 2004: (Click on links below)
78118 Bharat Orbit Side View with Planets
78118 Bharat Orbit Side View without Planets
78118 Bharat Orbit Top View
78118 Bharat Orbit Top View with Planets