Scarsdale Teen Discovers New Planet While Interning At NASA -

Scarsdale Teen Discovers New Planet While Interning At NASA

This kid is pretty far out.A teenage whiz kid from the New York suburbs needed just three days at a NASA internship to pull off something out of this world — discover a brand new planet.Wolf Cukier, a 17-year-old senior at Scarsdale High School, was doing a summer internship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland over the summer when he made the cosmic discovery using the space agency’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, NASA said.
“There’s a whole bunch of things that also looked like planets when I was searching,” Cukier told The Post Wednesday. “It took some time to actually verify that this was a bonafide planet and not the telescope shaking or something.”“When I first found it, it was among 100 other things I flagged to start,” he said. “I do think I put like 10 asterisks next to it. I thought it looked pretty good compared to the rest of the things I saw.”

Cukier’s find is TESS’ first circumbinary planet — a celestial object that orbits two stars. The discovery was announced at the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu Monday.He said he landed the internship after he “sent a bunch of emails to random researchers at different institutions.”
“One of them said ‘I can’t take you but I can refer you to someone who might be able to take you,” he said. Enter NASA.However, the college-bound teen doesn’t get to name his discovery.“New planets discovered by TESS get a TOI number if they don’t have another significant name already,” he said.

Nor does he know what he would name it — although his brother insists “’Wolftopia’” would be pretty cool.” Cukier found his planet in a binary star system called TOI 1338, which lies inside a constellation about 1,300 light-years from Earth.Now called TOI 1338 b, it is the only known planet within the system.
Cukier’s plane is about 6.9 times larger than our planet, and “definitely not” habitable — it orbits too close to its sun.Astronomers typically identify new planets by detecting their route, or when one space object crosses in front of a larger object — for example, TOI 1338’s larger stars. Cukier said the two stars in the TOI 1338 system orbit each other about once every 15 days.

“I filtered everything for what is flagged as an eclipsing binary and just by hand looked through subjects one by one,” he said. “Eventually, I found it — it wasn’t called that then — TOI 1338 and it had a big primary eclipse and something that looked like a secondary eclipse.”He said his newfound astronomical credentials have made him a hero with his family.But Cukier still has one regret.“Funny thing is, I didn’t find anything else for the rest of the internship, even though I found one on like day three,” he said.


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