New discovery pushes star Kepler-90’s menagerie to eight planets


If you have an emotional attachment to our Solar System’s distinctions, you may want to look away. We’ve found another star system with eight planets, tying our own mark. Oh, and a Google machine-learning algorithm is responsible for the discovery.


This is one of two new exoplanets scraped from the massive archive of data from the Kepler space telescope by NASA’s Andrew Vanderburg and Christopher Shallue of the Google AI team. Planets detected by Kepler show up as slight dips in the brightness of a star—the result of the planet passing in front and blocking some of the light. 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.

这颗行星是被发现的两颗外行星之一,是美国宇航局的Andrew Vanderburg和谷歌人工智能团队的Christopher Shallue收集的大量数据所证实的。开普勒探测到恒星亮度有些许下降,这是由于其他行星在前面经过并挡住了一些光所造成的。

Like all machine learning systems, this one was fed measurements from previously identified exoplanets to work out what differentiates real signals from coincidental blips. The researchers say the system emerged with the ability to correctly identify false positives about 96 percent of the time.


It was then fed the data for 670 stars that have had at least one planet identified already in the hopes that more would turn up. A handful did, but after eliminating the ones that could potentially be explained by confounding factors like interactions with companion stars, two candidates passed all the standard screening steps.


One appears to be a rocky planet only about 30 percent larger than the Earth that becomes the 8th planet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star, designated Kepler-90i, which is 2,545 lightyears away. Sporting a dizzying orbit of just 14.4 days, this planet is close enough to its host star to be at least 435 degrees Celsius (about 800 degrees Fahrenheit)—decidedly “hot porridge” in Goldilocks parlance. In fact, all eight planets in this star system would fit inside Earth’s orbit.


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