Here's how Google AI helped NASA discover two exoplanets

Alien solar system ties ours for largest in a discovery aided by AI

Using machine learning and neural networks to achieve something humans could not, weak signal data from NASA's Kepler space telescope was scrutinized using Google machine learning technology to make the discovery.

How did Google use its machine learning tech? . The data collected from the Kepler telescope which NASA launched into space in 2009 as part of a planet-finding mission and it is expected to end next year as the spacecraft runs out of fuel.

The Kepler-90 planets have a similar configuration to our Solar System with small planets found orbiting close to their star, and the larger planets found farther away.

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

"There's a lot of unexplored real estate in the Kepler-90 system", Vanderburg said, "and it would nearly be surprising to me if there weren't any more planets around this star".

NASA calculated its average temperature at about 800 degrees Fahrenheit (426 Celsius) - as hot as Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. Like Earth, this new planet, Kepler-90i, is the third rock from its sun.

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

Shallue teamed up with astronomer Andrew Vanderburg of the University of Texas at Austin to develop the program. 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 finds distant planets beyond the solar system, or exoplanets, by detecting the minuscule change in brightness when a planet transits (crosses in front of) a star.

Kepler's four-year dataset consists of 35,000 possible planetary signals. "I'm sure there are more firsts in the data waiting for people to find them".

During its first test run of 15,000 previously-vetted exoplanet signals, the AI was able to identify true planets with 96pc accuracy, then with this new knowledge the AI could take that and apply it to the rest of the 20,000 signals. And it discovers new planets in existing systems, observing signals that seem to be of interest, but are too weak to be noticed by humans. The Kepler-80 system is stable, as the previously discovered seven-planet TRAPPIST-1 system has proven to be. He also compared the finding of exoplanets to sifting through rocks with a fine sieve to find jewels.

Case in point: Kepler-90i wasn't the only jewel the AI found. They named it Kepler-90i, and it can't be inhabited by humans or other species found on Earth.

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"This one, the Earth-sized Kepler-80g, and four of its neighboring planets form what is called a resonant chain-where planets are locked by their mutual gravity in a rhythmic orbital dance", NASA said.

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

But that isn't where its similarities to our own solar system end.

"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.

Scientists announced on Thursday they have found, for the first time, an eighth planet in a distant star system, tying it with our own solar system for having the most known planets.

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