Google's AI helped NASA to find another planet in Kepler-90's orbit

Joanna Estrada
December 18, 2017

According to, "Kepler spots alien worlds by noticing the tiny brightness dips they cause when they cross the face of their host star from the spacecraft's perspective".

A "sizzling hot, rocky planet", as described by NASA, Kepler-90i was spotted by a neural network trained to recognize exoplanets in the light readings recorded by the Kepler space observatory. "Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can't search it for themselves".

The Kepler telescope recently found ten more planets outside our solar system which could be the size and temperature to support life. Ninety-six percent of the time, it was accurate. So far, scientists have confirmed around 2,500 exoplanets, with 30 of those potentially being Earth-like planets located within their stars' habitable zones where liquid water could exist. Kepler's four-year dataset consists of 35,000 possible planetary signals.

More planets are expected to be found. Researchers plan to apply their neural network to Kepler's full set of more than 150,000 stars. The agency has kept its cards close to the chest, but has said, "The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google".

Interestingly, if all those eight planets of the Kepler-90i were moved into Sun's orbit, they will easily fit in. It's not a hospitable environment.

"The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system", says Vanderburg.

"You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer".

"This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come", Hertz said. "In Kepler data we see this quite a bit - there are a lot of systems that are a lot more tightly packed that our own". In comparison, Mercury's orbit is 88 days. In addition to the mission scientists and citizen scientists spotting alien planets in the data returned by this telescope, computers have been an important boon for these efforts.

To date, Kepler has observed 2,525 confirmed exoplanets.

"These results demonstrate the enduring value of Kepler's mission", Kepler project scientist Jessie Dotson, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said in the same statement. "I hope it may give people more of a reason to go into astronomy to use more advanced technology like this".

NASA had kept the details of the most recent announcement under wraps aside from a media advisory stating that Google's Artificial Intelligence was involved in some new discovery. It has enough fuel to keep identifying candidates until summer 2018.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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