17-year-old Wolf Cukier discovers new planet during NASA internship

Wolf Cukier, a 17-year-old high school student from Scarsdale, New York, who had an internship with NASA, has discovered a new planet on his third day.

He reportedly discovered while peering through NASA orbiting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in 2019.

According to NASA, the planet, is now known as TOI 1338b, and is almost seven times larger than Earth and has two stars. The two stars orbit each other every 15 days, one that is about 10 percent more massive than our sun, and another only a third of the sun’s mass and less bright. It is also almost the size of Saturn, which invariably makes it unlikely to be livable.

Wolf Cukier noted he discovered while looking through the data for everything the volunteers had flagged as an eclipsing binary, a system where two stars circle each other and, from our view, eclipse each other every orbit.

He 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.

It was reportedly the second time Wolf Cukier, would intern at the space research laboratory, having already spent the summer of 2018 working on a Goldilocks Zone project of NASA aerospace technology.

The system had been flagged as an eclipsing binary, where two stars circle each other and eclipse each other from our point of view. Wolf Cukier, after going over the data, noticed that a planet was present too.

Circumbinary are challenging to detect, and scientists have now confirmed about two dozen, with the first discovered in 1993.

Research on the newly discovered planet, known to astrophysicists as a circumbinary planet was presented during the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu.

According to Nasa, the stars make an eclipsing binary, which occurs when the stellar companions circle each other in our plane of view.

Nasa also noted that a paper co-authored by Wolf Cukier along with other established scientists had been submitted to a scientific journal.

Cukier said he plans on continuing research into astronomy and eclipsing binaries in the future and stays in touch with his mentors at NASA frequently.


NASA orbiting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was designed and launched specifically to find Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby stars, Paul Hertz, NASA astrophysics division director explained.

TESS discovered three planets in orbit, named TOI 700 b, c, and d. Only “d” is in the so-called “Goldilocks zone,” not too far from and not too close to the star, where the temperature could allow the presence of liquid water.

The name is an allusion to the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” in which a young girl samples three bowls of porridge and finds that one is just right not too hot and not too cold.

TOI 700 d is about 20 percent larger than Earth and orbits its star in 37 days. It receives 86 percent of the energy that Earth receives from the sun.

Other teenagers with discoveries like Wolf Cukier

Jonah Kohn: Sensors for the hearing impaired

Jonah created a device that transforms sound waves into vibration and sends it to specialized devices that people can attach to their fingers.

The testing of the device showed that people could recognize different frequencies and tones 95 percent better than before. Jonah was also the Google Science Fair 2012 winner.

Erika Debenedictis: Fuel-efficient space travel

Erika, at age 14, developed an Interplanetary Transit Network. So, instead of merely sending a rocket from point A to point B, you need to build the itinerary it will take. So, we need to use the gravitational forces of the solar system to help us get the spaceship to where we need it to be.

Erika made a detailed plan of asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and demonstrated that the gravitational forces of Jupiter could attract and push away massive objects. Even the objects as big as Saturn V.

Erika got 1st place in physics for her concept at ISEF in 2010.

Eesha Khare: One-minute mobile phone charger

Eesha, whose mother is a biologist and her father an engineer. She creates a supercapacitor that can shrink the charging process of a device down to 30 seconds. She won $50,000 for her discovery that took 2nd place at Intel ISEF in 2013.