Nicole Oliveira was just learning to walk when she would reach out with her arms for the stars. 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 science and space figures from her country. Oliveira’s bedroom is filled with posters about the Solar System, Star Wars figures, and miniature rockets.
Nicolinha, as she affectionately is called, sits at her computer, 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.
The International Astronomical Search Collaborative, a citizen science program associated with NASA, is responsible for the operation of the project in collaboration with Brazil’s ministry of science. Nicolinha, beaming with pride, told AFP that she had already discovered 18 asteroids.
After Nicolinha was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious school, she and her family moved to Fortaleza because of their passion for astronomy. Her father, a computer scientist and engineer was allowed to continue his work and telework.
Nicolinha was so determined to get a telescope, she told her parents that she would trade it for her birthday parties.
Her mother explained that the gift was too costly for her family, so she got it when she turned 7, and her friends pooled their money to purchase it. Nicolinha continued her studies and enrolled in an astronomy class that had to reduce the age limit from 12.
Nicolinha has interviewed prominent figures on her YouTube channel such as Duilia de Mello (Brazilian astronomer), who was part of the discovery and subsequent destruction of a supernova named SN 1997D. Oliveira visited Brasilia last year to meet the minister of science and astronaut Marcos Pontes. He is the only Brazilian astronaut to have ever been to space.
Nicolinha plans to pursue her own ambitions and become an aerospace engineer.
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