Another 8-planet solar system? 7 things about Kepler's 'sizzling' discovery

Another 8-planet solar system? 7 things about Kepler's 'sizzling' discovery

As for now, scientists have discovered an eighth planet known as Kepler-90i which is revolving around the solar system of the star Kepler-90. The process involves computers learning how to identify planets outside the solar system, or exoplanets, using data collected from other exoplanets.

"We have concrete plans to look at the reminder of the data set from the main Kepler mission, which is at least 150,000 stars", says Shallue, who pointed out that the key part is that machine learning can be used to look at more signals than it would be reasonably possible for humans to study. "Today, Kepler confirms that stars can have large families of planets just like our solar system".

Two small planets within its orbit, known as 90b and 90c, revolve around Kepler-90 every seven and nine days, respectively. Consequently, Kepler-90i has an average surface temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit, and is not a likely place for life as we know it.

All of the planets in the Kepler-90 system are closely situated to its star. In fact, all eight planets are scrunched up around this star, orbiting closer than Earth does to our sun.

For the first time, another solar system has been found in our galaxy with eight planets, just like our own - and it was Google's artificial intelligence that found it. With help from Andrew Vanderburg, an astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin, Shallue developed a machine-learning program that detects light curves.

Without machine learning, it would have taken humans much longer to scan the recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system (exoplanets), Shallue said.

Using Google machine learning, NASA discovered an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a sun-like star 2,545 light-years from Earth.

He became interested in exoplanet discovery after learning that astronomy, like other branches of science, is rapidly being inundated with data as the technology for data collection from space advances.

Kepler has produced an unprecedented data set for exoplanet hunting.

The team's artificial "neural network" sifted through the archival Kepler data and found weak transit signals from a previously-missed planet orbiting Kepler-90. However, the weakest signals often are missed using these methods.

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NASA and Google also held a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Thursday to answer public questions.

Like Earth, this new planet, Keplar-90i, is the third rock from its sun.

When the scientists finally tested their neural network on signals that it had not seen before, it correctly sorted the planets from the false positives a whopping 96% of the time, Shallue said.

The Kepler-90 system also could have a ninth planet or more, according to the researchers.

If you want to search for planets among Kepler's weaker signals - which are far more numerous - then that haystack gets "much, much larger", he added.

All of the planets except for 90i were previously known.

"This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come", Hertz said.

Dive into the details of Shallue and Vanderburg's research paper, accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

"These results demonstrate the enduring value of Kepler's mission", said Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "I'm sure there are more firsts in the data waiting for people to find them".

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