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

Nicole Oliveira, when she was learning to walk, would reach up to the heavens with her arms.
At eight years old, the Brazilian girl is the world's youngest astronomer. She searches for asteroids in a NASA-affiliated program. She also attends international seminars and meets with top scientists from her country.

Oliveira's bedroom is filled with posters about the Solar System, Star Wars figures and miniature rockets. Nicolinha, as Oliveira affectionately calls her, sits in her room, studying the sky on two large monitors.

Asteroid Hunters is a project that aims to expose young people to science and give them the chance to discover space on their own.

It is managed by the International Astronomical Search Collaborative, a citizen science program associated with NASA and Brazil's ministry for science.

Nicolinha, beaming with pride, told AFP that she had already discovered 18 asteroids.

The lively, dark-haired girl spoke out with a high-pitched voice and said, "I will give them names of Brazilian scientists or members of my families like my mom or dad."

Oliveira, if her findings are confirmed, which could take many years, will be the youngest person to discover an asteroid. This would break the 18-year-old record held by Luigi Sannino in Italy.

She really does have an eye. Oliveira is an astronomy teacher at a private school located in Fortaleza, northeastern Brazil. She was awarded a scholarship to help her spot points that look like asteroids.

"The most important thing about her is sharing her knowledge with other children. Rodrigues Moreira said that she contributes to science dissemination.

Nicole Oliveira uses her computer in her Fortaleza, Brazil home. (Jarbas Oliveira/AFP).

Astronomy is my passion

After Nicolinha was awarded a scholarship, Nicolinha and her family moved to Fortaleza. Her father, a computer scientist and engineer, was allowed to continue his work and telework.

"When she was just two years old, she would raise both her arms up to the sky and ask me for a star," said Zilma Janaca (43), her mother who works in the craft sector.

We knew that she was serious about her passion for astronomy when she asked for a telescope for her fourth birthday. Janaca said that I didn't know what a telescope was.

Nicolinha was so determined to get a telescope, she told her parents that she would trade it for any future birthday parties. Her mother explained that the gift was too costly for her family, and she got it when her 7th birthday came around and all her friends had contributed money.

Nicolinha continued her studies and enrolled in an astronomy program that had to lower the age limit from 12.

Nicolinha has interviewed prominent figures on her YouTube channel such as Duilia de Mello (Brazilian astronomer), who participated in the discovery and subsequent publication of SN 1997D.

Oliveira travelled to Brasilia last year to meet the minister of science and the astronaut Marcos Pontes. He is the only Brazilian ever to have been in space.

Nicolinha hopes to be an aerospace engineer.

"I want to build rockets. She said that she would love to visit the Kennedy Space Center at NASA Florida to see their rockets.

She says, "I also want all children in Brazil have access to science."

Agence France-Presse