Published: Mon, January 13, 2020
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17-Year-Old Discovers Planet With 2 Suns While Interning With NASA

17-Year-Old Discovers Planet With 2 Suns While Interning With NASA

NASA announced on Monday that a new planet was discovered orbiting 2 stars approximately 1,300 light-years from planet Earth. "About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338". "It turned out to be a planet", the intern added.

Christened as TOI 1388b, the newly identified exoplanet is between Neptune and Saturn in terms of size and orbits two stars one of which is 15 per cent larger than our Sun, while the other is considerably smaller.

While the teen has been credited with the finding, Cukier told the New York Post that he didn't get to name the planet because "n$3 ew planets discovered by TESS get a TOI number if they don't have another significant name already". TOI 1338 b "transits" - when a planet moves in front of its star from the Earth's perspective - vary between 93 and 95 days because of the way the stars orbit. Due to its positioning around the two stars it orbits, TOI 1338 b experiences regular solar eclipses and the space agency estimates that the orbit of the planet is stable for at least the next 10 million years. One is about 10 percent bigger than our Sun, while the other is cooler, dimmer and only one-third the Sun's mass.

Another first for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is its discovery of a world orbiting two stars, evoking the planet Tatooine from Star Wars but unlikely to be hospitable to life as we know it. As planets pass in front of stars, which is called a transit, it can help astronomers determine the location of planets. The first such discovery came in 1993.

Not only did Cukier and the team's research mark the first confirmed discovery of a circumbinary planet for the TESS program, but their work was also recently featured at a panel during the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, on January 6.

In 2019, Wolf Cukier joined NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a summer intern.

Cukier added that throughout the internship, it became 100% clear that what was discovered was a planet. But when he noticed the timing was off, he realized there may have been a planet involved.

TESS discovered three planets in orbit, named TOI 700 b, c and d.

The planet orbits in nearly exactly the same plane as the stars, so it experiences regular stellar eclipses, NASA said in a press release.

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