Friday, 26 February, 2021


17-Year-Old NASA Intern Explores 'Luke Skywalker Planet'

17-Year-Old NASA Intern Explores 'Luke Skywalker Planet' 17-Year-Old NASA Intern Explores 'Luke Skywalker Planet'
Kristine Garrett | 11 January, 2020, 14:16

His job was to examine variations in star brightness captured by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and uploaded to the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science project. More interesting is the discovery of the new planet by a 17-year-old intern. Just days after announcing TESS' discovery of a an Earth-like exoplanet in it's sun's habitable zone, NASA announced that the hard-working satellite has uncovered an exoplanet orbiting two stars: the first such system to be detected by TESS. The planet is 6.9 times larger than the earth and experiences regular stellar eclipses due to its orbit pattern.

The planet, called "TOI 1338 b", is somewhere between the size of Neptune and Saturn and has two suns.

The two stars orbit each other every 15 days. The second is cooler and dimmer and is sized about one-third of the Sun's mass. It's also colder and shines less.

17-year-old Wolf Cukier did an internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, in July last year after completing his junior year at the Scarsdale High School in NY.

"I searched the data for everything the volunteers identified as a darkening binary, a system in which two stars orbit each other and, in our view, darken each orbit", said Cukier.

The discovery of circumbinary planets revolving around two stars is very hard.

The finding is a positive sign for the TESS' capabilities, Kostov said, adding that he believes there will be more planets to be found. 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. The new planet called "TOI 700 d" is only 100 light years away from Earth.

Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to planet Earth, is approximately four light years away.

But a high school that browsed the data collected by TESS contributed to his latest discovery.

"I discovered a planet".

Star TOI 700 is small, about 40 percent of our sun's size and only about half as hot. "We designed it with planets in mind, but other members of the community use it to study stars, asteroids and even galaxies". The temperature in this region is thought to allow liquid water.

The name is an allusion to the fairy tale "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", in which a young girl samples three bowls of porridge and finds that one is "just right - not too hot and not too cold".

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