We know the universe a little better now, thanks to citizen scientists like UNC Asheville physics student and NASA intern Makennah Bristow, who was part of the team that helped discover a brand-new planet. Bristow’s internship at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center exposed her to new worlds, including K2-288Bb, a planet roughly twice the size of Earth located in the constellation Taurus, 226 lightyears away. It’s a rare discovery, especially because of its size and the fact that this planet is in its star’s habitable zone—meaning liquid water may exist on the planet’s surface. Bristow and the team found this planet by using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope and looking for “transits,” or the dimming of a star when a planet moves in front of it. Back here on Earth, Bristow has spent the last two years as a docent at UNC Asheville’s Lookout Observatory, where she helps others discover the excitement of viewing the stars and planets in the sky above.

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Originally published June 3, 2019.