NASA has discovered a new exoplanet in the distant star system Kepler-90. The eighth planet in the system was identified using artificial intelligence (AI) and data collected by the space agency’s telescopes.
The newly discovered eighth planet, called Kepler-90i, was found using machine learning from Google. The process involves computers learning how to identify planets outside the solar system, or exoplanets, using data collected from other exoplanets.
NASA provided the AI with data collected by its Kepler Space Telescope. The AI used the data to identify new faint light signals from Kepler-90, leading to the discovery of an eighth planet existing in the distant star system.
Kepler-90i is a rocky planet that is about 30 percent larger than the Earth. The exoplanet revolves around its star once every 14.4 days. The planet is much closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun, which means it is a sizzling hot planet with temperatures exceeding 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
All of the planets in the Kepler-90 system are closely situated to its star. Kepler-90h, the outermost planet in the system, orbits its star at a similar distance as Earth does to the Sun.
“The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer,” said Andrew Vanderburg, NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow and astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin.
Previously, only our solar system had been observed to have eight planets. With the discovery of Kepler-90i, the solar system is now tied with the Kepler-90 star system with the most number of planets.
The new discovery also proves the potential of machine learning in the field of astronomy. It can potentially be used to find astronomical bodies that have been missed in previous searches.