While other interns were fetching coffee and making copies, Wolf Cukier was discovering a brand new planet.
Cukier, 17, is a high school senior from Scarsdale, New York. Last summer, he started an internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and one of his first assignments was to help with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission. On his third day, while looking through a telescope at TOI 1338, a solar system 1,300 light years from Earth, he saw there was something in the orbit of two stars that was blocking the light.
Cukier made notes and after further study, he approached his bosses with the news that he'd found something. They spent several weeks conducting more research, and ultimately concluded that Cukier had discovered a planet 6.9 times larger than Earth. It is a circumbinary planet, which are hard to spot; this is just the 13th planet of its kind to ever be found, CBS New York reports. "Our confidence went up and down a couple of times, but by the end of the internship, we were confident that what we found was a planet," Cukier told ABC News.
Cukier had to keep his discovery a secret until this week, when the research was presented during the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu. Cukier says he hopes this is just the beginning of his career studying the stars, and he plans on majoring in physics or astrophysics next year in college.