Teen Discovers Planet: How Young Science Enthusiast Made Groundbreaking Discovery

A teen discovered a planet near Jupiter while he was working on a one-week project at Keele University. At the time, Tom Wagg was 15-years-old, and it took experts two years to determine if what he saw qualified as a virtual planet.

The new planet is 1,000 light years away at the southern constellation of Hydra. It's difficult to see if one looks through a telescope, but Wagg noticed a small dip in the light of a distant star. This usually means a planet is present because it passes in front of the star. It was later discovered that the planet orbits the star every two days, as Inquisitr mentioned in a related report.

Now, at the age of 17, Wagg is excited about his groundbreaking achievement. The student from Westlands, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs, has discovered a planet that is currently being categorized as "WASP-142b" since it's the 142nd planet to be discovered by the WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project, the Telegraph reports. WASP involves scientists from the Universities of Warwick, Cambridge, and St. Andrews working with scientists in Switzerland, France, and Belgium.

As Wagg tells the Sentinel, the planet is considered a "gas planet."

"It's a gas planet and is known as a 'hot Jupiter.' As it's so close to a star, there could be other planets around it."

How did Wagg discover the new planet? Other than his stellar observation skills, Wagg utilized a sophisticated computer program.

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

"I was initially looking at the light curve when I noticed it. I spoke to staff at the university and they said it looked interesting."

The teen who discovered the new planet says he's been interested in astronomy since he was 7-years-old when he got his first telescope. Wagg explained that he was instantly hooked. When he got into his teens, Wagg studied data collected through surveys of night skies. While he was studying for his GCSE, one of his teachers recommended that he look into Keele in an effort to learn more about it.

The aspiring teen is aiming to study physics at the university then specialize in astrophysics or particle physics.

Wagg's physics teacher, Andy Fishburne, from Newcastle-under-Lyme School, says, "Tom has always read a lot and done a lot of his own studying around physics. He's ultra-keen."

Experts who've worked with Tom Wagg aren't surprised that the teen discovered a new planet because he has a passion for the field and is easy to train.

Right now there isn't a name for Wagg's new planet, but the International Astronomical Union is running a contest to name extra-solar planets.

[Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia]