When I was 15, I spent a lot of time playing Nintendo 64 in a dark basement. Tom Wagg, on the other hand, discovered a new planet 1,000 lightyears away.
The British planet-finder is 17 now. But two years ago, during an internship at Keele University, he found WASP-142b, a star-orbiting exoplanet whose existence took two years to confirm. It’s the size of Jupiter and calls the constellation Hydra home. Wagg found the planet while working on the UK-led WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) Project. This new celestial body is the 142nd to be found in the project, hence the planet’s (temporary) name. Wagg is probably the youngest person ever to discover a planet, according to Keele University.
The BBC says Wagg didn’t just stumble upon the distant rock by gawking through a telescope. It involved lots of data analysis. WASP uses a bunch of ‘scopes to monitor the heavens over and over again every night, tracking stars’ brightness. Wagg discovered the orbiting planet when one of the stars’ brightness dipped ever-so-slightly, when the planet was orbiting in between the star and the telescopes.
Amateurs making cosmic discoveries isn’t unheard of, though most of them probably aren’t students barely out of their tweens.
Artist rendering of WASP-142b
[Keele University via BBC]
Images via Keele University