LAST year - Student Wolf Cukier, 17, spent his summer vacation, as few other rising seniors have :  He helped discover a planet.
Meet TOI 1338 b, the newly identified world orbiting two stars more than 1,300 light years away.

Last July, just after he finished his junior school at Scarsdale High School, N.Y., World started an internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. His job was to scrutinize data that had been beamed back from outer space by TESS, or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

A unique aspect of the TESS project is that it invites regular people to volunteer to watch the online transmission for patterns in star brightness that might suggest the existence of a new planet, a sort pf crowdsourcing of the universe.

During the first week of the internship, as he sifted through data that had been flagged by  citizen-scientists, he zeroed in on a system that included two orbiting stars. He identified a body in that system that was later verified as a planet about 6.9 times as large as Earth.

His colleagues gave the system a name, TOI 1338, an acronym for TESS Object of Interest, and then called the planet TOI 1338 b.

''It was awesome,'' Wolf said in an interview on Friday. ''I never expected to find anything. The fact that I found something is cool, and seeing the scientific process and how many people have to work to verify the planet, and techniques for things like that, it is awesome.''

Last Monday, scientists involved with TESS project announced the verification at the request of at the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu. It is the first time that the TESS project has discovered a circumbinary planet, which is a planet orbiting two stars, since the two-year program was started in April 2018, a NASA statement said.

Wolf plans to study astrophysics when he starts college in September, he said [he hasn't decided where just yet]. He said he was humbled by his contribution to the discovery of the new world, emphasizing the team work in the verification process.

''We identified a promising candidate,'' he said. ''You can't be arrogant. It is a planet, insofar we can claim any other exoplanet., pretty much.''

The World Students Society thanks author Christine Hauser.


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