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NASA discovers two new exoplanets through artificial intelligence

The solar system, dubbed Kepler-90, has as many planets as ours.

Solar System
Solar System

The NASA and Google have announced a major discovery: a twin solar system located by the Kepler spacecraft with the help of artificial intelligence. The Kepler-90 solar system has 8 planets, just like ours and two new worlds have been specifically identified and validated: Kepler-90i, a hot, rocky orb that surrounds a Sun-like star called Kepler-90, which is to 2,545 light years from Earth and Kepler 80g.

How has Google’s AI discovered exoplanets?

A team of scientists trained a machine to learn (what we know as machine learning) to detect exoplanets through the light readings recorded by the Kepler space telescope, that is, the minute changes in brightness captured when a planet passes in front of a  star or the transita.

“The way I see it, what we’ve developed here is a tool to help astronomers have more impact,” said Christopher Shallue, software engineer at Google.

In fact, astronomers already knew the Kepler-90 solar system, but they had not previously detected these planets. As for Kepler-90i, it appears to be the third planet of the star – similar to our Sun – and orbits approximately every 14 days. The temperature on the surface is calculated at around 980 ° C. It is a very small planet (similar to the size of Mercury) and without conditions of habitability, but it helps us to continue gathering more data for our models of planetary formation.

Google’s AI processed 14,000 million data points from four years of  Kepler’s images, using what is known as a neural network (quite basic, by the way) that, in some way, mimics the way in which the brain human processes information.

“As we expected, there are exciting discoveries hidden in our archived Kepler information, waiting for the right tool or technology to be discovered.” This finding demonstrates that our information will be a hidden treasureavailable to innovative researchers for years to come, “Paul explains. Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division.

Algorithms and space exploration

NASA and Google state that this new technology will help scientists find many more exoplanets in the future. In fact, they are convinced that the Kepler-90 solar system probably has more planets that we have not yet detected.

It would be almost amazing to me if there were not more, is a solar system with eight planets like ours really so extraordinary? Maybe there are systems with so many planets that make our solar system look ordinary,” reflects Andrew Vanderburg of NASA.

It is clear that we started a new stage of intensive use of artificial intelligence algorithms in space exploration.

More planets to discover

The total of exoplanets confirmed so far by the space agency is now 2,525 , and 10 of them can be rocky, the size of the Earth and possibly habitable for extraterrestrial life.

Despite the use of artificial intelligence for the discovery of new worlds, Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, explained that astronomers will always be needed to classify objects before feeding information. in a neural network, so that the AI ​​can learn to see the new data.

Are we facing a new era of astronomy?


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