A New York teen reached for the stars last summer and found a one-of-a-kind planet.
Wolf Cukier, 17, an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, last July, was tasked with going through data on star brightness from the facility’s ongoing Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission or TESS. The Scarsdale High School senior was looking at a foreign system located 1,300 light-years from Earth. He said he then observed what appeared to be a slight darkness in one of the system’s suns.
It turned out that darkness was a planet 6.9 times larger than Earth that orbited two stars, what scientists call a circumbinary planet.
Once he flagged the discovery to his research mentors, Cukier spent weeks with them and other scientists confirming his hypothesis. NASA said the teen’s discovery was rare because circumbinary planets are usually difficult to find and scientists can only detect these planets during a transit event, when one of the suns shows a decrease in brightness.