NASA and Google Discover Eighth Planet in a Solar System Just Like Ours - NBC Bay Area
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NASA and Google Discover Eighth Planet in a Solar System Just Like Ours



    NASA and Google have discovered an eighth planet orbiting a star in the Kepler-90 solar system, tying it with our solar system, for the first time, with the highest number of planets.

    In a teleconference, the space agency revealed Kepler-90i – a sizzling hot, rocky planet discovered in the Kepler-90 solar system located 2,500 light-years away. According to NASA, it is the smallest of the eight planets and “orbits so close to its star that a ‘year’ passes in just 14 days.” The average surface temperature is estimated to be around 800 degrees Fahrenheit, making it very unlikely for life to exist.

    NASA explained that the planet was discovered in data from the Kepler Space Telescope by using machine learning from Google.

    “Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data,” said NASA in their statement.

    In the discovery of Kepler-90i, “computers learned to identify planets by finding instances in Kepler data where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.”

    The Kepler-90 system is set up like our solar system – small planets located close to their star and big planets far away – but the orbits are more compact.

    Kepler-90 is a Sun-like star, but all of its eight planets are scrunched into the equivalent distance of Earth to the Sun. The inner planets have extremely tight orbits with a “year” on Kepler-90i lasting only 14.4 days.
    Photo credit: NASA /Ames Research Center / Wendy Stenzel

    Although Kepler-90 is the first known star system with eight planets, besides our own, scientists say this won’t be the last. Researchers plan to continue using machine learning with sophisticated algorithms in search for more planets in the Kepler database.

    But Kepler-90i was not the only thing they discovered. In the Kepler-80 system, an Earth-sized planet was discovered named Kepler-80g.

    “These results demonstrate the enduring value of Kepler’s mission,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “New ways of looking at the data – such as the early-stage research to apply machine learning algorithms – promises to continue to yield significant advances in our understanding of planetary systems around other stars.”

    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. In our solar system, this pattern is often seen as evidence that the outer planets formed in a cooler part of the solar system, where water ice can stay solid and clump together to make bigger and bigger planets. The pattern we see around Kepler-90 could be evidence of that same process happening in this system.
    Photo credit: NASA / Ames Research Center / Wendy Stenzel

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