Innovation

NASA discovers new planet 2,500 light years away, thanks to Google AI

Google machine learning and Kepler telescope data helped spot an exoplanet known as Kepler-90i.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • NASA used neural networking to find potential exoplanets from Kepler telescope data.
  • Discovery of the 'sizzling hot' planet further validates the us of AI and NASA data as a future research tool.

NASA announced the discovery of a new exoplanet Thursday, and artificial intelligence (AI) aided in the finding.

Described by NASA as "a sizzling hot, rocky planet," Kepler-90i orbits its namesake Kepler-90, a star around 2,500 light years away. NASA teamed up with Google researchers to use neural networking to spot the planet.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

Computers used data from the Kepler Space Telescope, which has helped find over 2,500 exoplanets since 2009, to differentiate between exoplanets and other things in space, the press release said. AI was able to spot weaker transit signals than other planet-finding techniques, including human eyes and automated tests.

"This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's Astrophysics Division, in the release.

Despite training on 15,000 sample signals, AI-driven technique resulted in false positives 98.8% of the time, according to our sister site ZDNet.

Past techniques had missed the exoplanet, leading NASA to suggest neural networking may be the key to finding more planets, including those with a higher potential for supporting human life.

Additionally, an Earth-sized planet was spotted orbiting Kepler-80, the release said.

The discovery gives an example of how big data and AI can be used to aid in major discoveries, including distant worlds. The technology can be used for further academic and scientific research, and may grow in usage.

"Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can't search it for themselves," Google researcher Christopher Shallue said in the release. Shallue became involved in the search after Googling for "finding exoplanets with large data sets."

With the new exoplanet, the Kepler-90 system ties our solar system for number of planets. With AI's help, more planets may be spotted to change that.

Also see

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Image: NASA

About Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth is a Multiplatform Reporter at TechRepublic.

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