- TESS is NASA's planet-hunting mission which has discovered multiple intriguing planets since 2018
- A high school searching through data gathered by TESS contributed to its latest discovery
- A 17-year-old discovered a planet orbiting two suns which is the first of its kind for the TESS mission
- It is the only planet in the system with two stars with its size being between the sizes of Neptune and Saturn
A high school student in New York can now add planet discovery on his CV. The young man found a whole new world during his internship at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The 17-year-old junior student at Scarsdale High School, Wolf Cukier was working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland a two-month internship when he uncovered TOI 1338 b.
According to a report by CNN, Wolf's first assignment was to examine variations in star brightness captured by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
Just three days into his internship, he discovered a new planet orbiting two stars instead of one.
“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,” he said.
“About three days into my internship, 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," he added.
NASA announced the news on their website after confirming the teenager’s work, submitting a paper that he co-authored for scientific review and announcing the discovery of the planet.
According to NASA, TOI 1338 b is 6.9 times larger than Earth, noting it could be in between the size of Neptune and Saturn and is located in the constellation Pictor.
It is about 1 300 light-years away from Earth. For context, the Earth’s sun is between seven and nine light-minutes away, Briefly.co.za learnt.
The planet the first to be captured by the TESS system that is considered a circumbinary planet, meaning it orbits two stars.
The two stars orbit each other every 15 days, and one is 10% larger than the sun.
Together, TOI 1338 b and its two stars make up what is called an eclipsing binary.
Wolf compared his discovery to Star Wars.
“I discovered a planet. It has two stars which it orbits around. So, if you think to Luke’s homeworld, Tatooine, from Star Wars, it’s like that. Every sunset, there’s gonna be two stars setting,” he said.
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