They are barely 18 years old, but have already achieved immortality. Anish Mukherjee and Debarghya Sarkar, who passed out of South Point High School this year, now have two minor planets named after them. The celestial honour was bestowed on them by the Massachussetts Institute of Technology and Lincoln Laboratory of the US.
The honour is a recognition of the-ir performance at an international science fair. Anish and Debarghya had won the second grand award in the electrical and mechanical category at the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Nevada.
At the fair, the duo had teamed up to showcase a tamper-proof clamped bottle cap that won accolades from the jury, comprising Nobel laureates and eminent scientists. The winners of the first and second grand awards get minor planets named after them.
A minor planet is an astronomical object in direct orbit around the sun. It is not a dominant planet or a comet. The first minor planet discovered was Ceres in 1801. Since then, more than 200,000 minor planets have been discovered, most of them lying in the asteroid belt. The term ‘minor planet’ has been used since the 19th century to describe these objects.
According to a communication from MIT and Lincoln Laboratory, ‘minor planet 2000 AH52’ (Citation No. 25629) and ‘minor planet 2000 AT53’ (25630) will henceforth be called ‘Mukherjee’ and ‘Sarkar’ respectively. They were discovered on January 4, 2000 by the Lincoln Laboratory Near-Earth Asteroid Research Team at Socorro, under its Linear Program.