Star employee: teenage intern at NASA discovers new planet

Written on 02/01/2021
Ciarán Mather

Emerging details about a new planet discovered by a young intern working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been revealed.

It seems that the stars (or should that be planets?) aligned for a 17-year-old high school student interning with NASA made a discovery, later-named as TOI-1338, just three days after he started working with the agency in 2019.

According to NASA, we now know that TOI-1338 is reportedly a gaseous exoplanet, similar to our Solar System's Neptune, and is around 6.9 times larger than Earth.

The agency revealed: 'The TOI 1338 system lies 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Pictor. The two stars orbit each other every 15 days. One is about 10 per cent more massive than our Sun, while the other is cooler, dimmer and only one-third the Sun’s mass.'

NASA also said that TOI 1338 b is the only known planet in the system.

Online, many users have noticed that it possesses a striking resemblance to a gorgeous pearl or smooth gemstone:

Speaking about his find while working with NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), Wolf Cukier explained: '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.'

'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.'

In the astrophysics world, Circumbinaries are notoriously difficult to detect, and scientists have now confirmed about two dozen, with the first discovered in 1993.

It’s safe to say that what Mr. Cukier did would serve as a good modern-day metaphor for a young King Arthur pulling Excalibur out of the stone.

NASA would be wise to keep him on their TESS team!

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