15-year-old schoolboy discovers new planet

This video from England is called Schoolboy finds new planet… while on work experience: Teenager spotted Jupiter-sized globe 1,000 light-years away.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Schoolboy on work experience discovers planet

Newcastle-under-Lyme pupil Tom Wagg spotted dip in light which revealed existence of a planet while on placement at Keele University two years ago

Jessica Elgot

Thursday 11 June 2015 17.12 BST

A schoolboy doing work experience with an astrophysics professor has discovered a new planet 1,000 light years from Earth.

Newcastle-under-Lyme school pupil Tom Wagg was 15 when he went for his work placement at Keele University, where he spotted a minuscule dip in the light from a faraway star that he knew could be caused by a planet passing in front of it.

Wagg kept in touch with the university’s Prof Coel Hellier while the potential planet was analysed by scientists from the universities of Geneva and Liege.

Two years later, the 17-year-old got the call confirming his discovery was indeed a new planet – a large gas planet with similar properties to Jupiter in the southern constellation of Hydra. Its characteristics mean it is very unlikely to support any form of life.

Although credited with the discovery, Wagg has not been allowed to name the planet he discovered, which will be decided by competition entries co-ordinated by the International Astronomical Union.

The new planet has been temporarily termed WASP-142b, because it is 142nd discovery by the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) project, whose data Wagg had been searching through.

“I had no idea what kind of work I’d be doing on the placement, let alone what I’d discover,” Wagg said. “When I realised what it could be I was astonished, it’s been a real boost to me to carry on with science.”

Hellier said he had been impressed by his “bright” work experience pupil and said that good observation skills had been key to spotting the small dip which revealed the planet’s existence.

“Humans are far better at doing this than a computer algorithm,” he said. “It’s not that rare to discover a planet – we’ve probably discovered 1000 in the last 10 years – but I’m not aware of any others being discovered on work experience.”

Wagg admitted he was a little sad he would not necessarily have the planet named after him. “In a way I am sad, but I definitely didn’t expect it to be, I understand why it’s a competition,” he said. “I do hope it encourages other people to know that anyone can find a planet, if they get access to the data and they know what to look for.”

Wagg, who is studying physics, maths, further maths and latin for A-level next year, plans to continue with physics at university. But he has not quite decided whether he will be pursing planets.

“I’m torn between particle physics and astrophysics, which seem on the face of it pretty different because one deals with the smallest things in the universe, and the other with the biggest,” the young scientist said.

“But actually, there are real similarities because if you study one, you can understand both, because the laws of physics apply to everything. That’s the beauty of science.”

6 thoughts on “15-year-old schoolboy discovers new planet

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