Seventeen-Year-Old Discovers New Planet

January 21, 2020
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Remember when we shared a story about TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), a special satellite that’s surveying the sky in space? TESS captures data from space so that people can analyze the information, with one goal in mind: to look for planets. While NASA scientists have been analyzing the data, so have ordinary people! It turns out that ordinary people (yes, people like us!) can join the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science project and help flag changes in light patterns from the data captured by TESS for NASA scientists to further analyze.

NASA Intern Wolf Cukier

As an intern for NASA, seventeen-year-old Wolf Cukier’s job was to analyze the data from citizen scientists. A dream internship? We’d say so! On day three of his internship, Cukier took a look at a system with two orbiting stars. One particular body in the system stood out to him, and he shared it with his colleagues. They named it TESS Object of Interest and began the process of verifying the object. Well, this object turned out to be a circumbinary planet, one that orbits two stars. In fact, this is the first circumbinary planet found via the TESS project, which started in 2018.

What an exciting internship for this high schooler! Do you have questions about Cukier’s interest in space, how he found the planet, and what exactly happens when you find something in space? We are e-interviewing him soon, so send your questions to