Teen Discovers New Planet during NASA Internship

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. supervision / ˌsu pərˈvɪʒ ən / (n) – the act of observing and directing someone

    I learned a lot in the company under my manager’s supervision.

  2. alert / əˈlɜrt / (v) – to inform someone about something urgent

    The health agency alerted the public about a new disease.

  3. indeed / ɪnˈdid / (adv) – without any doubt

    Climate change is indeed an important issue to tackle.

  4. orbit / ˈɔr bɪt / (v) – to move around something

    The scientists discovered a planet that orbits around a nearby star.

  5. keep in touch with (someone) / kip ɪn tʌtʃ wɪð / (idiom) – to continue one’s communication with another person, usually after being separated from him or her

    He keeps in touch with his classmates even after graduation.


Read the text below.

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.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• After Cukier’s successful internship, do you think NASA should hire him as an employee in the future? Why or why not?
• Aside from NASA, what other research laboratories should give learning opportunities for young people? Why?

Discussion B

• What are the pros and cons of letting young people be part of research initiatives?
• How can young people be encouraged to be involved in research and look for new discoveries? Discuss.