In a breakthrough in the hunt for aliens, Artificial Intelligence has helped NASA scientists find a distant alien solar system similar to ours, with eight planets orbiting its star, Kepler 90.
NASA has made yet another incredible discovery, which, after reading through the entire article will probably sound less incredible. Anyhow, by using revolutionary new technology, astronomers have discovered a solar system as big as ours, in a breakthrough find that according to experts, can help us find aliens.
The solar system which has 8 planets orbiting a distant star was identified with the help of Artificial Intelligence, which combed through data gathered by the Kepler Space Telescope.
Although the Kepler 90 star system was already found before, its eighth planet, called Kepler-90i was found thanks to a groundbreaking new project between Google and NASA.
The star system Kepler 90 is located 2,545 light-years away in the constellation Draco. The new planet orbits its star every 14.4 days. All of the planets within that solar system tightly orbit its host star.
The discovery is a revolutionary one because this is the first time researchers have identified a solar system in the universe that has the same number of planets orbiting it as our own sun.
Before AI started combing through Kepler’s data, ‘Kepler 90 was tied with Trappist-1, with 7 planets each,’ says Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
The discovery raises hopes of finding alien life and as NASA puts it, this discovery demonstrated for the first time ever, that distant star system can house a family of planets as large as our own.
The newly found planet, Kepler-90i is believed to be around thirty percent larger than Earth, but it is not a planet you’d want to visit according to Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas, Austin.
Despite the fact that the planet is most likely rocky, it doesn’t have a thick atmosphere and the temperature present on the surface are most likely scorching, having an average surface temperature of around 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
Automatic Learning or Machine Learning—a new tool in the hunt for aliens
Machine Learning is the subfield of computer science and a branch of artificial intelligence whose objective is to develop techniques that allow computers to learn.
More specifically, it is about creating programs capable of generalizing behaviors from information provided in the form of examples.
This is how scientists Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg went further and created a complete network of computers to identify exoplanetary transit signals.
Based on how neurons interconnect in the human brain, this artificial “neural network” scrutinized the data collected by Kepler and found a world (Kepler-90i) that, due to its weak signal, had gone unnoticed to scientists.
Had it not been for AI, we would never have discovered the planet Kepler-90i.
This discovery also raises other questions like, how many other planets have gone unnoticed until now, and whether or not some of them host alien life.
“As we expected, there are exciting discoveries in Kepler’s data, waiting for the right technology to be brought to light,” said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington.
“This finding demonstrates that the data of today is a treasure for the researchers of tomorrow.”
While machine learning had previously been used in Kepler’s database searches, this is the first time that an artificial neural network has been created that can find even the weakest signal in a distant world.
Anyway, while many of us thought that NASA had lined up a bit more of an exciting discovery, as many of you have already been able to deduce, the kernel of this announcement by NASA is not in the finding of Kepler-90, a very compact system where the farthest planet orbits at the distance that the Earth does from the Sun, but in the fact that artificial intelligence has taken a new step in the field of the search for alien planets, and perhaps, extraterrestrial life itself.
Maybe soon, the AI will help us identify aliens, just as it helped us find a planet that had gone unnoticed until now.
How many exoplanets has Kepler discovered?
- Candidate exoplanets: 4,496
- Confirmed exoplanets: 2,341
- Confirmed exoplanets less than twice Earth-size in the habitable zone: 30