A 17-year-old senior student at Scarsdale High School, New York, unexpectedly discovered a new exoplanet during his internship at NASA. He said that he found this opportunity after he “sent a bunch of emails to random researchers at different institutions.”
"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," the teen said.
Wolf Cukier was an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, Maryland, where his primary responsibility was to examine variations in star brightness that were captured by Tess space telescope, the Transitive Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
On the third day of his summer internship, Cukier spotted a circumbinary celestial object – a planet that orbits two stars. The planet happened to be an exoplanet from a binary star system called TOI 1338 that lies inside the Pictor constellation. It’s the only planet in this system, and it is as far as 1,300 light-years from the Earth, also being 6.9 times larger than our planet.
Cukier said in a NASA statement: "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."
The exoplanet is now called TOI 1338 b and is probably not habitable because of its close proximity to the stars.
Along with several other scientists, Wolf Cukier submitted a paper to a scientific journal. The teenager’s discovery was announced at the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting.