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Student discovered new planet while on work experience

Published 14/06/2015

The planet, as seen from a hypothetical moon, discovered by student Tom Wagg while he was on work experience at the university. David A. Hardy/PA Wire.
The planet, as seen from a hypothetical moon, discovered by student Tom Wagg while he was on work experience at the university. David A. Hardy/PA Wire.
Tom Wagg at Keele Observatory, as he discovered a new planet 1,000 light years away while on work experience at the university. Keele University/PA Wire.

A student said he got "lucky" when he discovered a new planet 1,000 light years away while on work experience aged 15.

Tom Wagg, from Staffordshire, was studying data collected by a South African telescope during a placement with Keele University when he spotted a dip in the graph where light from the stars was blocked.

Professors at the university marked the find as a priority and confirmed it as a planet following a two-year process of confirmation from experts around the world.

Uninhabitable for humans, the mysterious planet resembles Jupiter and orbits in a manner similar to Mercury, according to the teenager.

He told BBC Breakfast: "The Wasp Organisation has a telescope in South Africa which was looking at stars and we measured the light intensity coming from the stars and then plastered it on a light curve, then you see this dip in the graph which shows a planet passed in front of it and blocked from the light.

"I was kind of lucky, because you could have all the expertise in the world and not see the data, I just happened to have the one that looked at the planet."

Now 17, the student hopes to go on to study physics at university before specialising in either astrophysics or particle physics and entering a research job.

His discovery currently goes by the name Wasp-142B, after the telescope which provided the data, but the International Astronomical Union will be holding a competition to name the planet.

And the budding physicist has his own ideas for what the planet's new name should be - Zeus, the Ancient Greek equivalent of the Roman god Jupiter.

Wasp, which is short for the Wide Angle Search for Planets, has now assisted in the identification of 142 planets in the last 10 years.

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