NASA spots eighth planet Kepler-90i in Solar System

Dec 15, 2017 14:22 IST
NASA spots eighth planet Kepler-90i in Solar System

NASA has recently discovered an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star which is 2545 light-years far from Earth. The announcement of the discovery was made by NASA on 14 December 2017.

The newly-discovered planet Kepler-90i was discovered in data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. It was found using Machine Learning from Google.

Machine learning is an approach towards artificial intelligence in which computers learn. In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding the instances in the Kepler data where the telescope recorded signals from exoplanets, planets beyond our solar system.

Kepler-90i is a hot rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days.Around 30 per cent larger than Earth, Kepler-90i is so close to its star that its average surface temperature exceeds 800 degrees Fahrenheit, on par with Mercury.

Its outermost planet, Kepler-90h, orbits at a similar distance to its star as Earth does to the Sun.

How Kepler-90i got discovered?
• The planet discovery was made after researchers Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg trained a computer to learn how to identify exoplanets in the light readings recorded by Kepler. The light readings were the tiny changes in brightness captured when a planet passes in front of a star.

• The machine-learning approach was based on the networks of neurons that populate the human brain.

• The scientists tested the machine-learning software on 15000 previously vetted Kepler signals, including both confirmed detections and false positives.

• They also directed the network to search for additional weak signals in 670 star systems already known to host multiple planets.

• This artificial neural network found weak transit signals from a previously-missed eighth planet Kepler-90i orbiting Kepler-90 in the constellation Draco.

• The other planet discovered was Kepler-80g, the sixth planet known in its system, which is centred around a dwarf star that lies about 1160 light-years from the sun.

As per NASA scientists, this research demonstrates that neural networks are a promising tool in finding some of the weakest signals of distant worlds.

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