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A high school student from New York has discovered a planet that is nearly seven times the size of Earth during a NASA internship.
Seventeen-year-old Wolf Cukier [SOO-kee-uh r] found the planet, now named TOI 1338b, during his summer internship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
It was Cukier’s second internship at the same research lab. He was assigned under the supervision of NASA research scientist Veselin Kostov, who said he had never handled a high school intern before. Kostov assigned the teenager to monitor exoplanets—planets outside the Solar System—using NASA’s new space telescope called Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
Cukier discovered the planet when he was looking at an image of a two-star system, and he noticed something strange. There was slight darkness in one of the system’s stars, so he alerted his mentor about it. With the help of other NASA scientists, they spent weeks together confirming the hypothesis that the darkness was caused by a planet.
Upon careful study, the team was able to confirm that it is indeed a planet. Cukier found a planet that orbits two stars, which, according to NASA, is rare and difficult to find. In fact, this was the first time that such a planet was spotted using TESS.
Cukier received praise from Kostov. According to the scientist, Cukier was a fast learner who learned everything by himself. The teenager was happy about his NASA internship and said that the planet’s discovery made it meaningful. Cukier still keeps in touch with his NASA mentors and plans to continue astronomical research in the future.