As far as impressing your potential new boss goes, discovering a planet on day three of your internship at NASA is up there,that’s what happened to 17-year-old Wolf Cukier while helping out at the space agency in the United States.
He was checking images from its super-strength satellite when he noticed something strange.
It turned out to be a new planet, 1,300 light years away from Earth. News just confirmed by NASA.
He explains that he landed the two-month placement with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center when school finished last summer.
His job? To examine data beamed back via their Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) – a space telescope that looks for planets outside of our solar system.
“I was searching for a planet that orbits two stars,” he explains.
He had to look for changes in the brightness of any stars that might suggest the shadow of a planet passing in front.
So just three days in, when most of us would still be making the tea, he was looking at a solar system many light years away from ours and noticed something blocking the light of two stars.
That was when he flagged it.
“I took it to my mentor, we looked at the data from the stars and noticed two additional dips in light, so we started doing analysis to see if it actually could be a planet.”