17-Year-Old Student Discovers A New Planet On The Third Day Of Internship At NASA

Wolf Cukier, a junior at Scarsdale High School in New York, got a two-month internship with NASA during his junior year. So he went to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. His first task was to investigate fluctuations in star brightness acquired by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, as part of the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science initiative. (The citizen science initiative lets people who do not work for NASA to assist in the discovery of new planets.) Cukier found a new planet only three days into his internship. NASA made the announcement on their website, after validating the teenager's work, submitting a paper co-authored by Cukier for scientific review, and announcing the finding of the planet, now known as "TOI 1338 b," during the 235th American Astronomical Society conference. 17-year-old Cukier said: “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. About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338. At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet.