Tom Wagg at Keele Univeristy

17-year-old Tom Wagg of Staffordshire, England may just be the youngest person to ever discover an exoplanet or a planet that lives outside our solar system.

Wagg is a student at Newcastle-Under-Lyme School and participates in a work-study program at Keele University. The University has a program dedicated to the search of exoplanets known as the WASP consortium or the Wide Angle Search for Planets. WASP uses what is known as transit method to detect planets by analyzing dips in stars’ brightness. The dips are because a planet orbits in front of it.

At 15 years old, Wagg went through the DATA compiled by WASP and discovered that a Jupiter-like planet orbits in the WASP-142 system. This planet is located 1000 light-years from Earth. Cataloged as WASP-142b, the planet orbits pretty close to its parent star, completing an orbit in just two days. Therefore, this planet is very warm, fitting into a class of planets known as hot Jupiters.

Hot Jupiters are formed further from its host star but gradually get pulled in by the gravitational force of other planets within the system. Therefore, researchers assume that WASP-142 may contain other planets.

Astronomers from the University of Geneva and the University of Liege in Belgium validated Wagg’s discovery making Wagg’s achievement a good selling point when he applies to university. Wagg plans to study physics.

“I’m hugely excited to have found a new planet, and I’m very impressed that we can find them so far away,” Wagg stated.

He gives a lot of credit to WASP for aiding him in his discovery.

“The WASP software was impressive, enabling me to search through hundreds of different stars, looking for ones that have a planet.”

Here is an artist rendering of the planet.

Picture by David A. Hardy

Sources: Keele University;