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Staffordshire teenager, Tom Wagg 17, of Newcastle-under-Lyme School in England, has discovered a new planet 1,000 light-years away from earth. The student famously discovered the celestial body when he was actually 15, during a work experience program at the University of Keele. While looking to the skies, Wagg discovered a descent in the light coming out of a star.
His intelligence lead him to search through photos of tiny dips in light in the night’s sky caused by planets passing by its star. This guided him to perceive that there must have been a planet close by alerting it to persons of the program. The finding has made the young scientific enthusiast one of the youngest persons ever to make such a discovery. The young Staffordshire citizen in an interview, stated that it was just his third day in the program when he spotted the planet and had gone through around 1,000 sets of data for confirmation.
The discovery has been classified as a gas planet similar to that of Jupiter. It also resembles the other planets that were found in the mid-1990s, which were nothing like the ones astronomers had seen. However the planet is said to be as large as that of Jupiter, except it orbits closer to its star resulting in it taking only two days to go around as oppose to Jupiter’s 12 years or 4272 days. The surface of the planet is believed to be scorching hot, due to the distance between its star. This new planet, in company of the ones from the 1990’s, changed the theories behind how planetary systems are formed, making Wagg’s discovery something for Staffordshire and his colleagues to be significantly proud of.
Many find that the amazing thing about this discovery, is that the planet is still within the galaxy, the Milky Way, and if a telescope is in the direction of the constellation called the Hydra in the night’s sky, the planet’s home could be seen. To find exactly where the planet actually is, a technique must be used which is the exact one Wagg carried out. Due to the size and proximity of the planet to its star, scientist say the planet can be detected easily. All that is needed, is to check the amount of light the planet covers while it moves between Earth and its star. By graphing the light that is received by earth, persons can notice a dip or descent every time the star crosses. NASA’s space telescope is by far the best tool to do this technique with, but Wagg had A Wide Angle Search for Planet (WASP) software which is a number of small telescopes taking photos several times a night.
A Dr. David Gregory-Kumar has explained that the Staffordshire student had not actually seen the new planet but only sifted through the data from WASP. He went on to add that most scientist using the WASP software, aim to find smaller planets with more of the characteristics of Earth. Also scientists say that the technique used is not the most reliable, due to the fact that Wagg discovered the planet at age 15 and it took two years for the planet to be made official. Though the planet still remains without a name for now, a competition is on to name it, with Wagg deciding to enter himself. The Staffordshire teenager, who plans to attend college soon to study physics can be proud of his discovery of the new planet and the world awaits for more achievements from this young man.
By Andrew Joseph
BBC: Staffordshire pupil discover planet
Business Insider: Tom Wagg 15 makes an epic discovery of a planet 1,00 light years from home
Photo courtesy of David DeHetre’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Photo courtesy of Scott Cresswell’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License