"TOI 1338 b's transits are irregular, between every 93 and 95 days, and vary in depth and duration thanks to the orbital motion of its stars".
A NY high school student can put "planet discovery" on his resume after finding a new world during his NASA internship.
"The timing was wrong", he said in an interview with NASA. "It turned out to be a planet".
The system had been flagged as an eclipsing binary, where two stars circle around each other and eclipse each other from our point of view.
But the student spotted something unusual while examining TESS' star data. NASA said the teen's discovery was rare because circumbinary planets are usually hard to find and scientists can only detect these planets during a transit event, when one of the suns shows a decrease in brightness. "But it's also not like there's a single moment of discovery".
Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to planet Earth, is approximately four light years away.
"Our confidence went up and down a couple of times, but by the end of the internship, we were confident that what we found was a planet", he said, according to ABC News. He initially thought the dip in brightness was a result of one of the stars in the system passing in front of the other. Wolf Cukier of Scarsdale High School is different. "We designed it with planets in mind, but other members of the community use it to study stars, asteroids and even galaxies". A paper co-authored by Cukier and scientists from NASA Goddard, San Diego State University and the University of Chicago, as well as other institutions, has been submitted to a scientific journal. As planets pass in front of stars, which is called a transit, that can help astronomers determine the location of planets. "We don't have a large sample size of binary system planets".
TOI 1338 b is the first circumbinary planet discovered by TESS, according to NASA.
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". 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.
TOI 700 d is about 20 percent larger than Earth and orbits its star in 37 days.