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Strasbourg school kid makes astrophysics discovery

5 January 2013

Fifteen year old Neil Ibata has made a scientific discovery that may change the way we understand the nearest ‘large’ galaxy to our own – Andromeda. The school boy from Strasbourg was doing an internship at the city’s astronomical observatory, where his father works, when he came across the findings with a new computer programme he had just learnt how to use. Admitting he hadn’t spent a hundredth of the time using the programme as his father, he says: “We calculated the distance and speed of this galaxy, which allowed me to model it. It was the conclusion of several weeks of work. But we can definitely say I had some beginners luck.” The new study observes 13 smaller satellite galaxies orbiting around Andromeda in a way similar to how the planets in our solar system orbit around the sun. The galaxies are orbiting on a thin, pancake-like plane at a scale 900 million times larger than our own solar system. The 15-year-old is featured on the cover of science journal Nature and named as a co-author of the study, however, he says he is not sure about whether he will one day become an astrophysicist.