Becoming an intern at NASA itself isn’t easy. Now, imagine discovering a brand new planet just three days into the internship. Although it seems impossible, that’s exactly what this talented 17-year-old did.
Wolf Cukier is a high-school student from New York. To start his internship, he joined NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, back in 2019. There, Cukier’s job was examining variations in star brightness captured by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
The teenager was able to discover a new planet, now known as TOI 1338b, on his third day of internship. This planet is located in a system that is 1,300 light-years away from Earth.
In an interview with CNN, Cukier explained that when he made the discovery, he was going through the data related to everything the volunteers had marked as an eclipsing binary. An eclipsing binary is a system where two stars circle around one another. In our view, during every orbit, the two stars eclipse each other.
On the third day of his internship, Cukier spotted a signal from a system called TOI 1338b. He stated: “At first, I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet.”
TOI 1388b is TESS’s first circumbinary planet. Such planets orbit two stars instead of one. The planet TOI 1388b is approximately 6.9 times larger than Earth. One of the stars is 10% larger than the sun by mass. The other is cooler and dimmer, and only one-third the Sun’s mass.
Recently, some generated images of TOI 1388b were released, and they went viral on the internet. In just a few days, the images gathered 1.2 million likes and over 224,000 retweets on Twitter. These generated images of TOI 1388b were absolutely breathtaking. They portrayed the planet in beautiful pastel colors, featuring bubblegum pink, soft purple, lavender, and light green shades.
Although the planet looks mesmerizing, it’s important to note that these images aren’t real. In fact, they were created by a bot, and are just artistic depictions of TOI 1388b.
Real or not, these images are surely gorgeous. So, check them out and share your thoughts with us in the comments!