A 15-Year-Old Discovered a Planet During a Week-Long Internship

Courtesy Keele University
Courtesy Keele University / Courtesy Keele University

British teenager Tom Wagg got off to a good start during his weeklong work experience project at a nearby university. Just three days into a program at Keele University, he became one of the youngest people ever to discover a planet.

The then-15-year-old was searching through images of stars, looking for the change in light caused by a planet passing in front of a star using data from the UK’s Wide Angle Search for Planets. Now, two years later, the existence of the planet he found using that process has been confirmed by follow-up observations from telescopes in Chile and by scientists at the University of Geneva and Belgium’s University of Liege, who verified that the object has a reasonable size and mass for a planet, cementing Wagg's hypothesis.

An artist's conception of WASP-142. Image Credit: David A. Hardy

Currently, the planet does not have a name outside of its basic classification, WASP-142b. Located in the constellation Hydra, WASP-142b is about the size of Jupiter. It orbits its star in just two days, making it an easier planet to locate—it passes in front of the light from its star quite often, and the blips of dimming light that alert scientists to a potential planet occur more frequently.

Wagg eventually plans to study physics. You know, once he actually enters college.

[h/t: Washington Post]