NASA discovers Earth-like planet system using Artificial Intelligence!
The NASA has discovered the first star system apart from ours, with as many planets as our own. The biggest known system till now had seven planets. The Kepler-90 is some 2,500 light years away from Earth. The "mini version of our solar system" was discovered with NASA's Kepler telescope and Artificial Intelligence. What does this mean for the search for extra-terrestrial life?
The Kepler telescope looks for planets by detecting shadows they cast as they pass stars. During 2009-2013, it had scanned 1,50,000 stars. Scientists have confirmed about 2,500 are exoplanets. Thanks to Kepler, astronomers now know that "every star has (several) planets orbiting it," says Paul Hertz, NASA scientist. However, the amount of data collected is too much to study manually.
This is where AI came in. Google researchers created an artificial "neural network" to detect minuscule changes in light during planetary transits. It then searched for weaker signals previously missed while exploring Kepler data. In the process, it discovered the Kepler-90i, the eighth planet around the Kepler-90, making it as big as our system. Another discovery was a sixth planet in the Kepler-80 system.
1/2 Google AI working w/ @UTAustin used machine learning to look for exoplanets in @NASAKepler data. Our models were trained on 15,000 signals to recognize patterns caused by actual planets vs those caused by other objects, and performed w/ 96% accuracy for planet detection.— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) December 14, 2017
The Kepler-90i, the latest discovered planet, takes 14.4 days to revolve around its 'Sun' - the Kepler-90. Thus, a year in Earth time lasts two weeks there. The rocky planet is the smallest in that system but a third larger than the Earth. However, the surface temperature is about 426 degrees Celsius, as hot as Mercury.
Though it was a major discovery, scientists are pretty sure life, as we know it, is not possible on the Kepler-90 system. For one, it is much smaller and too hot. The Kepler-90 is 20% bigger and 5% warmer than our Sun. The system is very tightly-packed: their orbits are so small that seven of its planets would fit between the Earth and Sun.
Before the latest discovery, the biggest known star system was the Trapist-1 with seven planets. There's still a lot of unexplored territory in the Kepler-90 system itself; there's a possibility more planets might be found around the star. Scientists expect the already-collected Kepler data of 1,50,000 stars will lead to the discovery of more planets with the help of AI.