Cukier was invited back to intern at the spaceflight complex, but Kopparapu was not available to provide guidance. Cukier was placed under the tutelage of NASA research scientist Veselin Kostov, who had never had a high school intern, Kostov told The Washington Post.
“I gave him a brief outline of what we do, and he learned everything by himself,” Kostov said. “He learned really quickly. He really developed a very good understanding of the field.”
Cukier had a framework of what to look for based on his exploration of the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science project, which allows people to comb through TESS data and categorize star systems, he said.
While looking at an image during his internship, he thought something looked “suspicious,” he said, noting that the image had an additional feature that made him alert Kostov.
“After we saw the original transit, we looked at the full light curve and saw three transits,” Cukier said.