Star system has record eight exoplanets

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US Space Agency NASA announced on Thursday that applying artificial intelligence to Kepler telescope star data uncovered a new planet in a distant solar system, bringing the system's total planet count to eight and making it the largest known such system outside of our own.

Kepler-90i is in fact the eighth planet to be discovered in the Kepler-90 system, a "mini version" of our solar system with its most distant planet located as close to its star as the Earth is to the sun.

Paul Hertz, Director of the Astrophysics Division, said: "The planet Kepler-90i is not likely to have life since it is so close to the star Kepler-90 that the surface temperature is 800 Fahrenheit". Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted, "Kepler-80 g, and Kepler-90 i - which is in the first 8-planet system outside our own!"

Shallue said he became interested in applying Google's machine learning technology to astronomy when he learned that "the Kepler mission had collected so much data that it was impossible for scientists to examine it all manually".

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The researchers trained a computer to learn how to identify exoplanets in the light readings recorded by Kepler the minuscule change in brightness captured when a planet passed in front of, or transited, a star.

Like all machine learning systems, this one was fed measurements from previously identified exoplanets to work out what differentiates real signals from coincidental blips. Some planets are more obvious than others, and the goal here was to turn the algorithm loose on digging through past measurements for weak signals that had been missed. The researchers say the system emerged with the ability to correctly identify false positives about 96 percent of the time. Their assumption was that multiple-planet systems would be the best places to look for more exoplanets. "It's like filtering through rocks to find jewels".

Kepler-90i was not the only jewel this neural network filtered out. This one, the Kepler-80g, and four of its nearby planets form what is called a resonant chain where their mutual gravity locks planets in a rhythmic orbital dance.

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Their analysis paper describing these findings has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. Of the 150,000 stars represented in Kepler's collection, the computer combed through 670 star systems for signs of exoplanets. So far, the data set has about 35,000 such signals.

"These results show the enduring value of Kepler's mission", said Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

While machine learning has been applied before to the Kepler telescope's data, it is believed to be the first time that the technology has unearthed a new world. On its second run, the K2 mission, Kepler observed an additional 200,000 stars. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

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