High School Student, 17, Discovers Rare New Planet Just 3 Days Into His NASA Internship

High School Student, 17, Discovers Rare New Planet Just 3 Days Into His NASA Internship

The new planet, named TOI 1338 b, is almost 7 times larger than earth and orbits around two stars every 95 days.

Three days into a summer internship with NASA, a 17-year-old high school student discovered a planet. Wolf Cukier was interning at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center when he stumbled upon the curious object, that turned out to be a planet. The new planet, named TOI 1338 b, is estimated to be 6.9 times larger than the earth, making it almost the size of Saturn. The planet is 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Pictor. The planet was also orbiting around two stars, once every 95 days, according to a report by CBS News. 


Cukier made the discovery using TESS, NASA's planet-hunter satellite. The 17-year-old was randomly looking at satellite images that were flagged by the public when he spotted something odd. An object appeared to be blocking the light of a star's light and was could be seen moving in front of the star. “That’s what I noticed at first,” Cukier told CBS New York. “It was like, oh … there’s something here that was cool." After checking with some seniors, they confirmed to him that he had indeed found a new planet. It's also the first time Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess) has found a planet with two stars. "I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338. At first, I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet," said Wolf Cukier, according to The Telegraph.



Having discovered the planet, he also went on to co-author a paper after collaborating with many scientists across America. The paper has since been submitted to an academic journal for publication. The new discovery also found mention at a panel discussion during the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu. Wolf Cukier's mother is over the moon at the turn of events that's happened to her son. “There are Ph.D. candidates who would die to have the type of opportunities that Wolf has lucked into in this internship,” said Beth Cukier. “It was an amazing, cool bit of serendipity.”



Many experts noted that it was the naked eye was better at discovering planets than computers. “These are the types of signals that algorithms really struggle with. The human eye is extremely good at finding patterns in data, especially non-periodic patterns like those we see in transits from these systems,” said Veselin Kostov, the lead author on the paper. 



Wolf Cukier was doing his internship with NASA after completing his junior year of high school at Scarsdale High School in New York. The 17-year-old is keen to study physics or astrophysics at one of the top institutions in America including Stanford, MIT, or Princeton. Let's just say he's beefed up his resumé finding a planet. 


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