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Teen discovers new planet 1,000 light years away

Technically Incorrect: At 15 years old, a British schoolkid finds something out there that no one had noticed before. How? By studying data.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Tom Wagg, planet discoverer. Keele University

Honestly, kids these days.

They've got nothing better to do than get on their high horses and think they know it all.

Just because they can make a smartphone do things adults can't, just because their fingers are still small enough to work an Apple Watch, they think they're smarter than we are.

Well, have they ever discovered a planet?

Actually, this seems to be the case. At least where 17-year-old Tom Wagg is concerned. Oh, let's be more accurate. It was the 15-year-old Tom Wagg who discovered a new planet. The 17-year-old version is merely basking in the glory, as it took two years for huffy adults to confirm his discovery.

Wagg, from Newcastle-under-Lyme in the UK, likes to stare at stars. He spent a week in the astrophysics department at Keele University. This used to be a hotbed of hairy agitators. Now, it seems, it reaches for even higher planes.

As his local Stoke Sentinel newspaper proudly reports, Wagg didn't keep looking up until his neck hurt in order to find the planet. Instead, he pored over data from an international space project.

There, he found something interesting. He told the Sentinel that he first spotted a peculiar light curve in the constellation of Hydra. It was a tiny dip in the light of a star as a planet passed in front of it.

The thing about planets, though, is that they're so far away and Elon Musk hasn't yet devised a way we can get to them quickly.

Wagg's discovery is 1,000 light years from Earth and can't be seen through a telescope. But we have learned a little something about it.

"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," Wagg said.

The authorities in Belgium and Switzerland took their time to decide that Wagg's planet is real. They have, however, christened it Planet Schoolkid. Of course I made that up. These are authorities. They are by definition stodgy. The new planet is therefore WASP-142b.

This name has nothing to do with a white Anglo-Saxon having found it. It's named after the WASP (Wide Angle Search For Planets) software that Wagg used to make his discovery.

Keele University's own Web site quotes Wagg as saying: "The WASP software was impressive, enabling me to search through hundreds of different stars, looking for ones that have a planet. The planet is the same size as Jupiter, but orbits its star in only two days."

It's heartening to know that anyone has a chance of finding a planet. You see kids, you can be heroes, just for one day.