NASA, Google AI Discover Eighth Planet in Kepler-90 System


NASA just announced that they've discovered a nearby solar system with eight orbiting planets, making it the first solar system to tie our own in number of planets.

The research has led to hopes that AI can be used across astronomy to identify new planets and other discoveries with vastly increased speed. The system surrounds the sun-like star Kepler-90, 2,545 light years from Earth. "You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer", said Andrew Vanderburg, a NASA researcher.

As well as the key discovery of Kepler-90i, and other planet called Kepler-80g - an Earth-sized planet - was found in the Kepler-80 system in the constellation of Cygnus. The system was discovered thanks to artificial intelligence software from Google.

The discovery has been made using Google's artificial intelligence technology, it said, and it will nearly certainly offer news about an exoplanet.

"Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them", Paul Hertz, director of NASA's Astrophysics Division in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. Shallue became involved in the search after Googling for "finding exoplanets with large data sets".

Kepler-90i is an extremely hot planet with rocky surface. Artificial intelligence has been used before to process the Kepler data, but by imitating the way neurons connect in the human brain, Shallue and Vandenberg were able to train the computer to seek out and identify weak transit signals that had previously been missed.

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The Kepler telescope recently found ten more planets outside our solar system which could be the size and temperature to support life. The star is cooler and redder than our sun, and all of the planets orbit very tightly around it.

Their assumption was that multiple-planet systems would be the best places to look for more exoplanets.

"We searched for new planets around stars already known to host transiting planets, so we knew the Kepler telescope could detect them", he said. Vanderburg and his colleague Christopher Shallue trained a computer to look for changes in brightness of the Kepler-90 star.

"New ways of looking at the data - such as this early-stage research to apply machine learning algorithms - promises to continue to yield significant advances in our understanding of planetary systems around other stars", Dotson added.

NASA did state in an email to Newsweek that the announcement is connected to a paper being published at 1:00 p.m., when the press conference begins, but the agency has not made its text available to journalists to run by experts in the field, as is usually the case.