Published: Sat, January 11, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Earth-Like, Potentially Habitable Planet Discovered 102 Light Years Away

Earth-Like, Potentially Habitable Planet Discovered 102 Light Years Away

Wolf Cukier, a 17-year-old from NY, was interning at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland last summer, where he worked reviewing star brightness data collected by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission, also known as TESS.

A teenage intern on his third day helping out at a Nasa program to find worlds beyond our solar system has discovered a previously unknown planet with two stars 1,300 light years from Earth away in the constellation Pictor, the agency has announced. "About three days after the start of my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338".

He continued, "At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong".

It turned out that darkness was a planet 6.9 times larger than Earth that orbited two stars, what scientists call a circumbinary planet.

"What is interesting about this planet in particular is that there's two stars which it orbits", Cukier told the hosts of ABC's "Strahan, Sara & Keke" on Thursday. But Cukier's human eyes were ideal for finding patterns in the data, most importantly that of the non-periodic patterns like the new planet with two stars. Eventually, they confirmed the planet's existence and gave it a name: TOI 1338 b. This irregular transit period is due to the fact that the planet is orbiting two stars that are orbiting each other.

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The teen, who had just finished his junior year at Scarsdale High School when he made the discovery, likened TOI 1338 b to fictional planet Tatooine in an interview with News 12 published Wednesday.

An exoplanet, according to Merriam-Webster, is a "planet orbiting a star that is not [Earth's] sun". Their work was featured at a panel this week at the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu. TESS's mistake of detecting the TOI 700d as hotter and larger was corrected by amateur astronomers, including high school student Alton Spencer. It's between the sizes of Neptune and Saturn and experiences regular eclipses from its stars.

He didn't just discover a new planet, but one of an extremely unusual, hard-to-spot kind.

The process was actually much faster than normal, taking about two to three months to confirm Cukier's discovery as a planet, Kostov said.

Most people sit through countless orientations on the first few days of their job, but one teen discovered a planet - on his third day. Only "d" is in the so-called "Goldilocks zone", not too far from and not too close to the star, where the temperature could allow the presence of liquid water.

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