Four New Exoplanets Discovered by Young Astronomers

An artist’s depiction of a five-planet system around TOI-1233 contains a super-earth (foreground) that could help solve puzzles of planet formation. The four innermost planets were discovered by high schoolers Kartik Pinglé and Jasmine Wright along with researcher Tansu Daylan. The fifth outermost planet pictured was recently discovered by a separate team of astronomers. NASA / JPL-Caltech

Just in case you’ve been feeling complacent about your accomplishments lately, two high schoolers involved in a mentoring program at Harvard helped discover four new exoplanets. As co-authors of a peer-reviewed article in the Astronomical Journal, they are among the youngest published astronomers of all time.

16-year-old Kartik Pinglé and 18-year-old Jasmine Wright worked on data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), specifically examining a nearby star named TOI 1233. By looking for dips in brightness from stars, researchers can identify those exoplanets between us and the star. In this case, the team found no fewer than four planets in orbit.

“I was very excited and very shocked,” Wright said in a statement. “We knew that was the goal of [mentor Tansu] Daylan’s research but actually finding a multi-planetary system and being part of the discovery team was really cool. “

The system consists of a star that is orbited by three sub-Neptunes. These are gaseous planets like Neptune, but smaller, that have orbits between six and 19.5 days each. The fourth planet is a super-earth, that is, it is rocky like our planet, but larger and orbits the star every four days.

Mentor Tansu Daylan hopes to study this system more closely and that it could help researchers understand more about how systems came about.

“Our species has long thought about planets beyond our solar system and with multi-planetary systems you hit the jackpot,” he said in the statement. “The planets came from the same disk of matter around the same star, but because of their different orbits they were different planets with different atmospheres and different climates. We therefore want to understand the basic processes of planet formation and evolution using this planetary system. “

Daylan also said he values ​​having young astronomers in his group as they offer a new perspective. “As a researcher, I really like interacting with young brains that are open to experimentation, learning, and minimal prejudice,” he said. “I also think it will be of great benefit to students as they are familiar with the latest research and this quickly prepares them for a research career.”

For the two promising young researchers, this could only be the beginning of an astronomical career. Pinglé is considering studying applied math or astrophysics after graduation, and Wright will soon begin a master’s degree in astrophysics.

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