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The passion of the Wolf (17 years) for the stars. So the intern, Nasa has discovered a new planet
WHAT can you hope more a seventeen-year-old with a passion for the space, which has already crowned a dream, that is, an internship at Nasa?. Just ask Wolf Cukier , that he discovered his first planet to the third day of "internship". A little luck, and a bit of the eye that took what the algorithms struggle to distinguish. Cukier did everything "by hand", by scrolling through columns of numbers and periods, the oscillations of the brightness of the stars. In the midst of all those data, provided by the new telescope of the Nasa, the hunter of extrasolar planets Tess, was a world not yet discovered. And teenagers it is found to be one of the gears of the machine and the scientific led to the discovery of a distant planet from the solar System.

TOI 1338b is a planet uninhabitable, almost seven times bigger than the Earth, very, too close to a pair of stars (TOI 1338), which is located about 1,300 light-years away: makes one revolution every 93-95 earth days. But the peculiarity that has made itself heard is just on the horizon (assuming it has one, may in fact be a gas planet) are two suns, like Tatooine in the Star Wars saga. And, of course, the age of its discoverer.

Also the story of how he managed to get to the Jpl of the Nasa, is a lesson of tenacity and luck: “I sent a bunch of emails to researchers in different institutions, - told the New York Post - one of them told me ‘I can bring but I know who could’”.

a needle in A haystack Cukier, who attends the last year at Scarsdale High School in Scarsdale, in the state of New York, was in the right place, at the right time: his task was to check the data of Tess, already analyzed by the public through the project Planet Hunter Tess, a collective work in the crowd sourcing that Nasa has activated, asking the enthusiasts on the web platform to report the loss of brightness of a star photographed by Tess. It is there that Cukier has found the anomaly, it was the third day of summer internship at the Goddard Space Flight Center, and thanks to his intuition came the discovery: “I Was looking for in the data, all that the volunteers had popped up as a binary eclipse -, said Cukier, remembering those days during the summer of her internship - a system in which two stars are orbiting each other and from our point of view, you eclipse every orbit”.

He rechecked the comments, and found out that something in that system was not returned. Trivially, an eclipse does not correspond to the expected times, those 15 days with the two stars orbit each other around a common center. So there was something else that passed in front of the astro more brilliant. It turns out that it was a planet: “When I saw it was among the other 100 things that I had marked to begin with - he said Cukier - I think I put us ten asterisks next to it, because it seemed very good compared to the other things I had seen.” The eye and the algorithm, And there he was right. As explained by the same scientists at Nasa, the algorithms are struggling to find planets around binary stars, because the eclipses of the stars themselves confuse the calculations, and the transit of a planet can go unnoticed. The curious eye of the Wolf instead has a center. To verify that it was not an instrumental error, the signal is fed to eleanor, a program that identifies the reliability. Eleanor said, yes, by comparing that observation with the other previous ones, establishing that the TOI 1338 b orbit around the pair of stars in about three earth months.

Cukier is now attending the last year of high school and in September she would like to study astrophysics at university. Without a doubt, comes to us with a good premise: thanks to his work, he is co-author of the article on the discovery of TOI 1338 b, together with the researchers of Nasa, Seti and the University of Chicago. Only regret, he confessed: “you have Not discovered anything else in all the rest of the stage”. But there will be time. In the meantime, is having much more of a quarter-hour of fame: interviewed by newspapers and tv all over the world, a television program gave them a “gift card” for a new telescope. Maybe one day it will change the name of the planet he himself discovered, that, at least for now, retains its original name. “My family suggests Wolftopia”.

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