Arushi Nath. Grade 7. Toronto.

This year the 60th annual Canada Wide Science Fair (CWSF) was hosted virtually in Fredericton, New Brunswick, from May 13 -19, 2022. Over 350 finalists from all parts of Canada participated in the prestigious national-level science fair.

My project, Strengthening Planetary Defense: Detecting Unknown Asteroids using Open Data, Math, and Pythonwon Gold Medal at the Toronto Science Fair and represented Team Toronto at the Canada-Wide Science Fair 2022.

After several rounds of interviews spread over multiple days, my project won:

  • the Best of the Canada Wide Science Fair Award (Innovation)
  • Gold Medal
  • Excellence in Astronomy Award from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
  • Top of the Category Award in Curiosity and Ingenuity, and
  • Youth Can Innovate Award.

My project was about detecting unknown asteroids in sky images using open data and algorithms. I took images from 4 telescopes located at different latitudes to get full sky coverage. I wrote Python algorithms to query European Space Agency’s GAIA and NASA’s Horizon sky catalogues to find all known stars and asteroids. Mean, standard deviation, and histograms were used to create masks to remove known objects. The remaining objects were classified as possible asteroid candidates. I detected 3 ‘preliminary’ asteroids. My algorithm’s plate-solving ability determined its Right Ascension and Declination using the telescope’s focal length and celestial location. I reported this information by creating a Minor Planet Center report for my images. I have made my code and methodology open-source to crowdsource planetary defense.

Possible Asteroid Candidates Detected by my Algorithm

It was an amazing opportunity to have participated in the Canada-Wide Science Fair 2022. It was the first time I attended the event, and I am glad that the over 800 hours I invested in the project led to my winning the top award. Participating in the CWSF allowed me to get in touch with other finalists and learn about their projects and their future goals.

Link to Canada Wide Science Fair Project Board:

Project release by Youth Science Canada: Plankton Wars and Planetary Defense take best project awards at this year’s CWSF

Facebook interview with the winners:

CityNews TV Interview:

Science Fair Advice from Gold Medal Winners:

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