A high school student has discovered a planet that orbits two stars just three days after starting his internship at NASA.
17-year-old New York-based Wolf Cukier is a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise and a hardworking teen who couldn’t wait to start his internship at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Using the TESS telescope, the young man discovered a planet in the Pictor constellation that is around 7 times bigger than Earth and orbits two stars.
“I discovered a planet [that] has two stars which it orbits around, so if you think to Luke’s homeworld, Tatooine, from ‘Star Wars,’ it’s like that. Every sunset, there’s gonna be two stars setting,” Cukier said of his first discovered planet, named TOI 1338b, in an interview with CNBC.
As the teen added, his job was to go through TESS photographs taken over a period of 27 days that were flagged by members of the public.
On his third day at NASA, the 17-year-old, who hopes to get into Princeton, Stanford, or MIT, spotted fluctuations and came across the planet.
“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,” Cukier added.
“Three days into my internship, I saw a signal. At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet.”
As it was confirmed after the discovery, the TOI 1338b planet orbits two stars every 93 – 95 days.
“Planets orbiting two stars are more difficult to detect than those orbiting one,” NASA said.
To verify the discovery, a NASA team made use of a software package called Eleanor Arroway which helped them confirm that TESS transits were real.
“Throughout all of its images, TESS is monitoring millions of stars. That’s why our team created Eleanor. It’s an accessible way to download, analyze and visualize transit data,” co-author Adina Feinstein claimed.
“We designed it with planets in mind, but other members of the community use it to study stars, asteroids and even galaxies.”
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