15-Year-Old Intern Discovered a Jupiter-sized Planet Located 1,000 Light Years Away

Tom Wagg was just 15 years old when he discovered a new planet located in the constellation of Hydra around 1,000 light years away.

What is even more incredible about this discovery is that Tom not only beat many professional astronomers in making the chance discovery but he was just at Keele University, Staffordshire on a week-long optional “work experience” for high school students.

You can just imagine how difficult it would be to discover a planet even with years of experience yet this youngster was able to find one in his 1-week internship.

Moreover, the planet is so far away that it could not be viewed even by the most advanced telescope of our time. So, how did Tom find this new planet? Well, the young man used data collected from the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) computer program of the university.

This keen-eyed teenager was able to notice a slight dip in the light emitted by a distant star. Believing this was caused by a planet that passed in front of the star, the youngster reported his findings. Though the astronomers agreed with his findings, it would take two more years of extensive data gathering and studying to finally confirm Tom’s discovery.

Artist rendition of Tom's newly discovered planet, WASP-142b Photo credit: HARDY/Keele University
Artist rendition of Tom’s newly discovered planet, WASP-142b
Photo credit: HARDY/Keele University

Just recently, Tom’s newly discovered planet has now been cataloged as planet WASP-142b by the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project though it does not have a name yet. Professor Coel Hellier of Keele University revealed that Tom’s planet is “one of a class of ‘hot Jupiter’ planets”.

Due to very little data collected for this planet and its very far location, astronomers were not able to obtain a photo of the planet or its star system but it is hypothesized that it is the only planet orbiting its star. Moreover, the planet is located so close to its star that completes a revolution around its orbit within just two days.

As for Tom, even though he discovered the planet, convention must be followed in naming it. Still, his discovery will surely be included in the history books – aside from having the honor of discovering a planet, he will forever be known as the youngest person to have ever discovered at planet (and did so in a week-long internship!). Incredible, isn’t it?

Tom Wagg
Tom Wagg at Keele Observatory
Photo credit: Keele University/Telegraph UK

Share your Thoughts