Artist impression of WASP-142b, which orbits extremely close to its host star. Image credit: David A. Hardy.

When we think of science, we generally think of chemicals and long lists of equations, of extremely complex machinery and adults in long, white coats. However, it seems that at least part of this perception is entirely inaccurate. Namely, that adults are the ones who do science.

Of course, adults do science, and often make scientific discoveries, but they don't have a monopoly on the practice.

Case in point, a high school student in the United Kingdom recently discovered an alien world drifting through the cosmos some 1,000 light-years from Earth. Tom Wagg, the student who is responsible for the discovery, made the find when he was just 15 years old. It seems that he is the youngest person to ever discover an alien planet.

The actual term used for alien worlds that exist in solar systems other than our own is "exoplanet," and this exoplanet is pretty spectacular. It has been dubbed WASP-142b, and it is known as a "hot Jupiter." The "Jupiter" portion of the name stems from the fact that these planets are roughly the same size as Jupiter. if you don't know, Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, with a mass that is 2.5 times more than all the other planets in our solar system combined. The "hot" part comes from the fact that the planets are, well, hot. The excess of heat is caused by the worlds' wild orbits, which brings them extremely close to their host stars.

And it is close. Scientists assert that WASP-142b completes one orbit every two Earth-days..

The initial discover was made two years ago, while Wagg was conducting work at Keele University; however, science is a slow game, and confirming findings often takes a lot of time. That's why the news is only breaking now, two years on. Wagg's detection was just confirmed by astronomers based at the University of Geneva in Switzerland and the University of Liege in Belgium.

Wagg located the planet by analyzing data collected by the WASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project. This is a project that surveys millions of stars to look for the tiny dip of light that is caused by planets passing in front of their host star (which is known as a "transit").

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


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