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17-year-old Helps NASA Find Planet in Habitable Zone

A paper, which Cukier co-authored along with scientists from Goddard, San Diego State University, the University of Chicago and other institutions, has been submitted to a scientific journal

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University of Iowa, Radiation, Sun
FILE - Tourists take pictures of a NASA sign at the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 14, 2010. VOA

Just three days into his internship, little did 17-year-old Wolf Cukier realise that he is going to make history — in helping NASA discover its first Earth-size planet resting in its star’s habitable-zone — the way our Earth rests in its Goldilocks zone.

In 2019, when Cukier finished his junior year at Scarsdale High School in New York, he joined NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a summer intern.

His job was to examine variations in star brightness captured by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and uploaded to the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science project.

“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,” Cukier said.

“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,” he said in a NASA statement.

NASA last week announced that its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) found a planet in a habitable zone, the range of distances where conditions may be just right to allow the presence of liquid water on the surface.

“I noticed a dip, or a transit, from the TOI 1338 system, and that was the first signal of a planet,” Cukier told NBC 4 New York.

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FILE – The planet Jupiter is shown with one of its moons, Ganymede (bottom), in this NASA handout photo, April 9, 2007. (Representational image). VOA

According to NASA, TOI 1338 b is 6.9 times larger than Earth and is located about 1,300 light-years away from Earth.

The planet orbits in almost exactly the same plane as the stars, so it experiences regular stellar eclipses.

A paper, which Cukier co-authored along with scientists from Goddard, San Diego State University, the University of Chicago and other institutions, has been submitted to a scientific journal.

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Meanwhile, Cukier is now planning about his future in college.

“My top three choices are Princeton, MIT and Stanford,” he told News 12. (IANS)

Next Story

SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)