New planet discovered by 15-year-old

A 15-year-old boy has proved yet again that age doesn’t come across the knowledge. A schoolboy doing work experience with an astrophysics professor has discovered a new planet which is 1,000 light years from Earth.

While undertaking work experience at the Keele University in England, Tom Wagg 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.  

“I’m hugely excited to have a found a new planet and I’m very impressed that we can find them so far away,” said Tom, now aged 17.

Now, after two years of observations Tom’s discovery has been verified as a planet.

Wagg apparently spotted the planet by scouring the data collected by Keele University’s WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project, which scans millions of stars in night skies and searches for tiny dips, or transits, caused by the passing of planets.

The planet does not yet have a name and the International Astronomical Union has started a contest to name it. Tom said he is looking forward to making a suggestion for his planet.

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.”

Invisible to the naked eye, the planet is the same size as Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, but orbits its star in only two days. Such frequent orbits make such planets easier to find – if you can describe the feat as easy.

After the discovery of the planet, astronomers at the University of Geneva and the University of Liege confirmed that it had the required size and mass to be identified as a planet. And the university is planning a competition to find a name.

According to NASA, the first exoplanet was spotted in 1995 and 5,000 have been discovered ever since. The space agency says on its website that such findings provide hope in finding another Earth.

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