NASA Intern Discovers A New Planet On His Third Day At Work
Wolf Cukier snagged some serious bragging rights on only his third day as a NASA intern.
The 17-year-old was assigned to a task: examining the variation in the brightness of stars captured by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in the Goddard Space Flight Center. But while he was doing so, he ended up discovering a planet instead.
The whole thing happened last summer, but NASA just announced it this week after the teenager’s findings were confirmed.
“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 explained. “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.”
Now, NASA has estimated that the planet, TOI 1338 b, is 6.9 times larger than Earth, which places it somewhere between the size of Neptune and Saturn. It’s located in the constellation Pictor approximately 13,000 light years away from Earth.
TOI 1338 b is the first planet discovered by the TESS system that is a circumbinary planet—a body that orbits two stars.
“If you think to Luke’s homeworld, Tatooine, from Star Wars, it’s like that. Every sunset, there’s gonna be two stars setting.”
Check out a clip explaining just how the planet was discovered down below: