NASA scientists have discovered an eighth planet in the Kepler-90 solar system, which ties the Earth’s for the most planets in a single solar system.
NASA announced the discovery Thursday, crediting machine-learning technology from Google for helping them discover the planet, Kepler-90i. Though the tech has been used to pick out new planets before, Kepler-90i sets a benchmark for identifying some of the most difficult to spot planets.
“Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them,” NASA’s Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz said in a press release. “This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come.”
Scientists use the old Kepler system data and plugged it into telescopes with the machine-learning tech. The telescopes used the old data to “learn” how to spot new planets.
Kepler-90i is about a third larger than Earth, and sits much closer to its star than Earth does. The new planet’s surface temperature is comparable to Mercury’s in the Earth’s solar system, or about 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Kepler-90i is about 2,545 light years away from Earth.
Because of the planet’s extreme heat, scientists do not believe it contains life.
Google senior software engineer Christopher Shallue and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow and astronomer Andrew Vanderburg detailed Kepler-90i’s discovery in a research paper soon to be published in The Astronomical Journal.
Along with Kepler-90i, the research team also discovered another planet in the Kepler-80 system. The second planet, Kepler-80g, is part of a five planet resonant chain where the planets are locked in each other’s gravitational fields and flow through orbits like a “dance.”
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