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High schooler discovers brand-new planet just 3 days into NASA internship — and it has a similarity to a 'Star Wars' planet



Photo by YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images

Wolf Cukier, a 17-year-old high school student from Scarsdale, New York, discovered a rare new planet just three days into an internship with NASA.

Cukier's internship took place over the summer at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

What are the details?

According to CBS News, NASA satellite TESS picked up the existence of an exoplanet orbiting two stars instead of just one.

An exoplanet, according to Merriam-Webster, is a "planet orbiting a star that is not [Earth's] sun."

Cukier identified the planet, which prompted comparisons to Tatooine from the "Star Wars" films, as the planet has twin "sunsets" from its dual stars.

The planet — dubbed TOI 1338 b — is nearly seven times larger than Earth, but NASA said the planet is unlikely to be inhabitable, CBS reported. The planet is located 1,300 light years away in Pictor, a constellation. TOI 1338 b orbits its two stars once every 95 days. One of the planet's stars is about 10 percent bigger than the Earth's sun, but the second star is much smaller at about just 33 percent mass of the Earth's sun.

Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to planet Earth, is approximately four light years away.

What did Cukier say about the discovery?

"I was looking through the data for everything the volunteers had flagged as an eclipsing binary — a system where two stars circle around each other and from our view eclipse each other every orbit," Cukier said, according to CBS.

"About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338. At first, I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet," he recalled.

Cukier added that throughout the internship, it became 100% clear that what was discovered was a planet.

"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," he said, according to ABC News.

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