17-Year-Old NASA Intern Discovers Huge Planet On His Third Day, But You’re Doing Great Too

This is a story that’s inspiring if you’re a young scientist and potentially triggering if you’re an older one.

No matter who you are, though, it’s objectively awesome: A 17-year-old intern at NASA has discovered a planet on his third day on the job. What’s more, the planet is a staggering 6.9 times larger than Earth, according to CNBC.

Wolf Cukier, a 17-year-old high schooler from Scarsdale, NY was working at a 2-month summer internship with NASA when he made the discovery.

Wolf Cukier (NBC 4 New York)

Sifting through user-submitted data Cukier noticed something, though at first he didn’t believe it. While looking at a system 1,300 light-years away of two stars that orbit each other—an arrangement known as an eclipsing binary—Cukier noticed a variation in star brightness that suggested the presence of…something.

As he told about the discovery:

“I was looking through the data for everything the volunteers had flagged as an eclipsing binary, a system where two stars circle around each other and from our view eclipse each other every orbit. About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338. At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet.”

Dubbed TOI 1338 b, the newly discovered planet has now been recorded in a paper with Cukier’s name on it.

Furthermore, Cukier, a big fan of Star Wars, points out that existing as it does in a constellation with two stars, his planet must also experience two sunsets, saying:

“It has two stars which it orbits around. So, if you think to Luke’s homeworld, Tatooine from Star Wars, it’s like that. Every sunset, there’s gonna be two stars setting.”

On another pop cultural note: Simpsons fans will recognize this real-life story line as very similar to the classic Simpsons episode “Bart’s Comet” in which Bart Simpson frustrates Principal Skinner by casually discovering a comet the first time he looks through a telescope after Skinner had been trying to do so for years.


Written by Stefan

Writer and middle school limbo champ.