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Coolest Intern on Earth Discovers New Planet 1,000 Lightyears Away

It’s a whole new world as 15-year-old Tom Wagg goes down in both intern and astronomy history.

image via (cc) flickr user gsfc

Internships, both paid and unpaid, can be a tricky proposition. In the best case scenario, an intern is expected to learn by doing, thereby gaining valuable work experience while simultaneously contributing to whatever workplace they’ve been assigned to. In the worst case scenario, it’s months of “copy this” and “coffee that” with little room for personal or professional growth. And while interns may promise to make a world of difference for their employer, only one has ever literally done so.


Tom Wagg was 15 when he began his internship at England’s University of Keele, after learning the school had specialists working to identify extra-solar bodies—planets, planetoids, and moons which lie outside our own solar system. There, Wagg made a discovery that is sure to go down as the single most monumental intern achievement in history.

He discovered a planet.

image via (cc) flickr user gsfc

WASP-142b, as it is currently cataloged, is roughly the same size as Jupiter, and resides in the Hydra constellation, some 1,000 light years away from Earth. Wagg discovered the galactic body while pouring over data from the Wide Angle Search for Planets project, England’s premier planetary search group based at the University of Keele. A release from the university explains that Wagg noticed the potential planet after “finding a tiny dip in the light of a star as a planet passed in front of it.” Oh, and he reportedly made the discovery on just his third day of work.

Astronomers at the University of Geneva and the University of Liege who have spent the past two years reviewing Wagg’s data will be announcing this weekend that WASP 142b is, in fact, a real planet, and Wagg is, in fact, the person who discovered it. Now 17, Wagg wants to study astronomy in college, and credits his achievement to WASP, explaining: “The WASP software was impressive, enabling me to search through hundreds of different stars, looking for ones that have a planet.” His planet, meanwhile, is believed to be what astronomers call a “hot Jupiter,” which follows a tight, close orbit to its home star. According to Inhabitat, the International Astronomical Union will be holding an open contest to name this, and other newly-discovered extra-solar planets.

Personally, I think “Planet Intern” sounds pretty good.

[via CNN]