This 22-Year-Old Might Have Just Identified 4 New Planets

The university student found four "planet candidates" outside of our solar system.

10/06/2016 8:59 AM AEST | Updated 10/06/2016 8:59 AM AEST

One 22-year-old's obsession with "Star Trek" just helped her make an astronomical discovery.

Michelle Kunimoto, while working under University of British Columbia professor Jaymie Matthews, was searching through data from NASA's Kepler Mission in hopes of finding planets other researchers may have missed, the school reported last week. 

But she didn't just find one -- she found four potential new exoplanets, or planets outside the solar system, which are considered “planet candidates” until independently confirmed.

Kunimoto said the science fiction franchise is what first sparked her love for astronomy.

"The moment where I was dead set on it was when my dad introduced my brother and I to the original 'Star Trek' series," she said.

Kunimoto is most excited about one particular planet, which she estimates to be the size of Neptune, because it may have the perfect environment for water. 

"Its temperature, based off of my calculations, is actually within the range of the freezing and boiling point of water, so it could have liquid water on its surface," she said.   

The Astronomical Journal is now reviewing Kunimoto’s planets, and she plans to return to UBC in the fall to start her master’s program in physics and astronomy.

Watch the video above to learn more. 

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