NASA recently announced the discovery of a new planet that is roughly 6.9 times larger than the Earth by a A 17-year-old summer intern only on the job for three days.
Now a senior at Scarsdale High School in New York, Wolf Cukier landed a 2-month internship with NASA back in the summer of 2019. The internship required him to examine variations of star brightness through NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
He then examined the data further and discovered that the dip was actually coming from a planet. “I was looking through the data for everything the volunteers had flagged as an eclipsing binary, a system where two stars circle around each other and from our view eclipse each other every orbit,” Cukier said.
“About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338,” he added. “At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet.” Since NASA confirmed the teen’s findings, they announced the discovery on their website this week.
TOI 1338 b, as it is now called, is TESS’s first circumbinary planet—a world orbiting two stars. The discovery was featured in a panel discussion earlier this month at the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu.
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