Stargazing Horbury Academy students make history with discovery of new comet

Pictured: kids who found a new comet '' Horbury Academy, Benton Hill, Horbury
Pictured: kids who found a new comet '' Horbury Academy, Benton Hill, Horbury

Young stargazers from Horbury Academy have made history with the discovery of a new comet.

Year 11 astronomy students and their teacher Paul Campbell were given co-ordinates of what was thought to have been a possible asteroid.

But after spending two nights studying the object using remote Faulkes telescopes in Hawaii and Australia, they made an incredible discovery.

The class sent off their analysis to The Minor Planet Centre, in Massachusetts.

And the following day they were told that they had discovered a new comet, designated C/2013 G9 (TENAGRA).

Mr Campbell, a keen amateur astronomer, said: “The students are absolutely buzzing, they just can’t believe it.

“When we started this project, never in their wildest dreams did they think they would discover a comet.

“There are a few teams around the world using these telescopes. But there was only one comet discovered in March, so it’s really quite a rare event to discover something new.

“It had been observed earlier as a possible asteroid. But we did some checks and reduced the data, which ruled out any object which had already been discovered.”

Mr Campbell, who has been working with Nick Howes who manages the Faulkes telescopes, said last weekend’s find was not the only achievement to come from the students’ GCSE project.

A few weeks ago they made important observations about another comet which had been given a 1 in 700 chance of crashing into Mars in October next year.

The students were able to recalculate the chance of collision to 1 in 2,300 after some careful studies.

Mr Campbell, who discussed the findings on Absolute Radio this week, said it was a major achievement for both he and the students.

He said: “The students will be sitting their exams in four weeks time so it’s a great boost for them.

“I’m also a hardened amateur astronomer and I’m out there with a telescope whenever I can be, forever taking photographs.”