This 15-Year-Old Intern Found Something 'Amazing'

It took 2 years to confirm that WASP-142b is indeed a planet
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2015 7:28 AM CDT
Updated Jun 14, 2015 11:59 AM CDT
This 15-Year-Old Intern Found Something 'Amazing'
Artist rendering of WASP-142b   (The Wide Angle Search for Planets)

British high school student Tom Wagg already has a line on his resume most of us can only dream of. While interning at Keele University two years ago, the then-15-year-old found what looked to be a planet; telescopes in Chile were used to take a deeper look, and now astronomers in Switzerland and Belgium have confirmed his find. Specifically, Tom discovered an exoplanet the size of Jupiter in the constellation Hydra some 1,000 light years away. And he did it right out the gate: "It was just my third day when I spotted what looked a good candidate, but I had already gone through more than 1,000 sets of data by then," Tom tells the BBC. "It looks boring, but when you think about what you're actually doing it's amazing really."

The BBC explains Tom didn't make the find via telescope, but rather, by poring over data collected by the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP). He was looking for dips in brightness that might indicate a planet passing in front of its star. The one he spotted has for now been called WASP-142b—so-called because it's the 142nd planet found by the UK-led WASP, reports Gizmodo. A competition has been established to settle on a name, and Tom says he plans to submit a contender. Let's hope his is given serious consideration: Keele University notes in a press release that "while astronomers worldwide have now found over 1000 extra-solar planets, Tom is possibly the youngest ever to have done so." (This intern did something pretty cool, too.)

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