Another Solar System Has Been Discovered By NASA


Today, NASA announced the latest discovery made using
their Kepler space observatory. They found an eighth
planet circling a distant star, proving once and for all that
our solar system isn’t the only one of its kind in the
cosmos.
In attendance at the briefing was the director of NASA’s
astrophysics division, Paul Hertz, and Kepler project
scientist Jessie Dotson. NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow
Andrew Vanderburg and Google AI engineer Christopher
Shallue were also present.
The planet, called Kepler-90i, was found in the Kepler-90
solar system. In the official release , NASA described the
world as a place that would be inhospitable to life as we
know it, referring to it as a “sizzling hot, rocky planet that
orbits its star once every 14.4 days.”
Vanderburg described the system itself as “a mini version
of our solar system,” adding that a majority of the small
planets are close to the star and that the bigger worlds are
pushed toward the outer limits. However, he clarifies that
everything is “scrunched in” much closer together.


During the press conference, the space agency emphasized
that the find was only made possible because of the deep
learning techniques developed by Google.
It takes a lot of time and effort for scientists to pore
through all of the data that Kepler collects. Leveraging
machine learning to take care of the grunt work means
that discoveries are made faster and, as an added bonus,
human researchers are able to spend more of their time
working on projects that simply can’t be automated.
Shallue came up with the idea for the collaboration during
his tenure as a senior software engineer at Google Brain.
He posed the question of whether deep learning could be
used to discover new planets . He then went on to work
with Vanderburg in order to find out, producing
convolutional neural networks that could identify
exoplanets in data collected by Kepler.

Since its initial launch in March 2009, Kepler has collected
a huge amount of data, and the team noted that this latest
breakthrough is just the beginning. With this new
application of technology, many more such finds are
coming our way.
“Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking
in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or
technology to unearth them,” Hertz said. “This finding
shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to
innovative researchers for years to come.”
Kepler has offered us a great deal of information about
distant planets and exoplanets. While we’ve yet to find
concrete evidence that these worlds can support life, we’re
closer to being able to make that kind of deduction thanks
to the spacecraft.

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