NASA-Google’s exoplanet discovery

  • On December 14 NASA announced that it has discovered two new exoplanets with a little help from Google. The researchers used the artificial intelligence from Google to analyse the data from Kepler- a telescope placed in space.

Where were the new exoplanets found?

  • Kepler-80g was found in the planetary system around Kepler 80. Kepler 80 is a star about 1364 light years away which already has five exoplanets around it-80b, 80c, 80d, 80e and 80f. 80g will now be the outermost planet in the system.
  • The other exoplanet Kepler-90i was found orbiting Kepler 90. Kepler 90 star is 2722 light years away and was previously known to have seven planets around it- Kepler-90b, 90c, 90d, 90e, 90f, 90g, 90h. The new 90i was found between c and d.

Why is exoplanet Kepler-90i more in the discussion?

  • With the discovery of the eight planet Kepler-90i, the planetary system Kepler 90 has matched our solar system. It has become the first star system to have as many planets as our solar system.

Are there any other features similar to our solar system?

  • According to NASA website,Kepler-90 planets have a similar configuration to our solar system with small planets found orbiting close to their star, and the larger planets found farther away. In our solar system, this pattern is often seen as evidence that the outer planets formed in a cooler part of the solar system, where water ice can stay solid and clump together to make bigger and bigger planets. The pattern we see around Kepler-90 could be evidence of that same process happening in this system.

How did Artificial Intelligence aid the discovery?

  • “From the millions of data recieved from Kepler, the programmers trained the computer to pick up specific clues regarding orbit calculation, sense change in brightness when a planet passes across etc., and apply certain algorithms for detection of exoplanets.
  • When all the clues matched the machine was able to interpret and give a positive result. Using machine learning techniques, we can detect even weaker signals that can be missed when done manually,”explains Prof. Sengupta Sujan K., Professor at Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru.


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