The 8-Year-Old Child Astronomer That Discovered Multiple Asteroids

Astronomy is probably the only academic discipline where much of the research is crowdsourced. While the James Webb Space Telescope is taking photographs of impossibly-deep space, and deepening our understanding of the very foundations of the universe itself, our own corner of space — our solar system — remains not fully understood. There's so much zipping about in this little section of the universe — comets, asteroids, space junk — that keeping on top of it isn't just the domain of scientists. Citizen astronomers, armed with backyard telescopes and a knowledge of where and when to look, are also scanning the skies, and there's even a NASA-affiliated international program, called "Asteroid Hunters," that encourages amateur astronomers to break out their scopes, scan the skies, and compile and share their data.

Since this is a crowdsourced effort — that means that little children can get in on the action — the barriers between their research and useful academic data have been removed. And, one little Brazilian girl, as of October 2021, had identified and named not one, but as many as 18 asteroids, has been given the title "The World's Youngest Astronomer."

Nicole Oliveira, Citizen Astronomer

When she was learning to walk, say Nicole Oliveira's parents, the young lass would reach her arms up to the stars. These days, she's not unlike most other 8-year-olds: According to, her room is filled with toys and posters, but in her case there's a space connection: Her toys are Star Wars figurines and miniature rockets, and her posters are models of the solar system. Also in her room is her computer, on which she studies images of the sky on two screens.

Nicolinha, as she's called, has had telescopes since she was 7 years old; her mother, Jacana, says she didn't even know what a telescope was until her daughter asked her for one.

Through her efforts, and in conjunction with the international objective to get amateur astronomers to share their data with the "official" space community, Nicole has discovered 18 asteroids, according to Republic World. As of July 2022, those discoveries haven't been certified — that process takes years. Assuming her data is certified before she reaches the age of 18, she'll be the youngest-ever person to be credited with discovering an asteroid (a record now held by an Italian man who was 18 when he was credited with discovering an asteroid).

Nicolinha's Future Goals

While she waits for her asteroid discoveries to be certified, Nicolinha is making a name for herself in the astronomy community not just in Brazil, but worldwide. In her home country, she's attended symposiums featuring noted astronomers, according to She's met Brazil's Minister of Science, and has earned a scholarship to a private school where she's learning astronomy.

"She really has an eye. She immediately spots points in the images that look like asteroids and often advises her classmates when they are not sure they have really found any," said Heliomarzio Rodrigues Moreira, Oliveira's astronomy teacher.

As for her asteroids, once they're officially certified, Nicole already has the names picked out. "I will give them the names of Brazilian scientists, or members of my family, like my mom or my dad," she said.

Meanwhile, she also hopes to someday visit the U.S. so she can see the rockets at the Kennedy Space Center. Most importantly, however, she's concerned about expanding science education. "I would also like all children in Brazil to have access to science," she said.