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15-year-old pupil finds new planet

An artist's impression of Tom's planet, WASP-142b, orbiting its star, WASP-142. The planet is depicted as seen from a hypothetical moon. Photo: David A. Hardy

A 15-yr-old pupil from Newcastle-under-Lyme School has discovered a new planet orbiting a star 1000 light years away in our galaxy.

Tom Wagg was doing work-experience at Keele University when he spotted the planet by finding a tiny dip in the light of a star as a planet passed in front of it.

``I'm hugely excited to have a found a new planet, and I'm very impressed that we can find them so far away'', says Tom, now aged 17.

It has taken two years of further observations to prove that Tom's discovery really is a planet.

Tom's planet has been given the catalogue number WASP-142b, being the 142nd discovery by the WASP collaboration. It is in the Southern constellation of Hydra. While astronomers worldwide have now found over 1000 extra-solar planets, Tom is mot probably the youngest ever to have done so.

Tom, who has always excelled in Science, asked for the work-experience week after learning that Keele University had a research group studying extra-solar planets.

The planet does not yet have a name, though the International Astronomical Union has started a contest to name extra-solar planets. Tom is looking forward to making a suggestion for his planet.