Out of this world! Union City teen may have discovered new planet outside solar system

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A Hudson County high school student may have discovered a brand new planet that lies outside of our solar system.

Ramzi Saber is a junior at Jose Marti STEM Academy in Union City. He recalls lying on his back as a small child in the courtyards of his grandmother's village in Morocco, mesmerized by the starry sky above.

"The stars and the sky were very, very visible and I would always look up and ask a lot of questions in my head about what this means, and why is that there? And why is this moving faster than that one?” Saber says. "The thing was, I could never answer those questions."

What it took for Saber to finally start answering those questions was an excruciating decision by his mother Ilham Chemame to uproot herself from her big family and a steady job in Morocco and bring Saber to the United States on a visa obtained through the U.S. visa lottery in 2009.

"Should I leave everything behind? It was not about the job, only about family. I lived with my mom, my sister. I couldn't leave everything,” says Chemame.

But Chemame and Saber came to the U.S. to begin a life in a new country totally alone.

"I saw her struggling and we were helping each other back and forth because she had her own stuff going on - trying to find a job and me trying to understand what's going on around me,” Saber says. “So, we stuck with each other the whole time."

This was all done so that Saber could get the education that would help him to finally start answering those big questions he had for so long – and answering them he is.

Saber and his mentors, including Seton Hall University physics professor Jose Lopez believe he has discovered a new exoplanet, four times the size of Jupiter orbiting a star that is 125 lightyears from Earth. The discovery still requires publication and vetting by NASA, a process that could take years.

But what is clear is that Saber is already doing Ph.D.-level astrophysics, all while planning for the upcoming junior prom.

“Ramzi is a once-in-a-lifetime student. And he is very dedicated,” says teacher Jennifer Donnelly.

Dedicated to astrophysics and dedicated to his mother.

"My whole purpose and this whole research and from here on out everything I do is dedicated to my mother,” he says.

Saber has received 10 awards for his research, including a full scholarship to New Jersey City University. But he says that he also plans to apply to Stanford, Harvard and MIT.

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