MNA Science & Tech Desk: A record-tying eighth planet has been found in a faraway solar system, matching our own in number. Even more amazing, machines and not humans made the discovery. NASA joined with Google on Thursday to announce the finding, reports news agency.
This eighth planet orbits the star known as Kepler-90. Like Earth, this new planet, Kepler-90i, is the third rock from its sun.
But it’s much closer to its sun — orbiting in just 14 days — and therefore a scorching 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 Celsius) at the surface. In fact, all eight planets are scrunched up around this star, orbiting closer than Earth does to our sun.
This is the only eight-planet solar system found like ours — so far — tying for the most planets observed around a single star.
Our solar system had nine planets until Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union, a decision that still stands. Some astronomers, however, suspect there could be a large ninth planet out there: an elusive Planet X the size of Neptune but much farther out.
The Kepler-90 system also could have a ninth planet or more, according to the researchers. It is 2,545 light-years away; a light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.
Google used data collected by NASA’s keen planet hunter, the Kepler Space Telescope, to develop the machine-learning computer programme. It focuses on weak planetary signals — so feeble and numerous it would take humans ages to examine.
While machine learning has been used before in the search for exoplanets — planets beyond our solar system — it’s believed to be the first time an artificial neural network like this has been used to find a new world.