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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:24AM   Printer-friendly
from the they-found-Jimmy-Hoffa dept.

NASA will be hosting a somewhat unusual press conference on Thursday (NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 14) to announce the latest find from its planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope. Kepler has found many hundreds of planets beyond our solar system over the years, but this week's announcement will be different because Google will be sharing in the science spotlight.

"The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google," reads a release from the space agency, adding that the breakthrough "demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data."

Exactly what has been discovered won't be revealed until Thursday, but with Kepler there's always a good chance that some new distant planets will be part of the reveal. Expect to hear something about a new era of planet-hunting assisted by artificial intelligence: That would be my guess for Thursday. We'll just have to wait and see if Google's A.I. is also helping to detect signs of alien life on the numerous worlds beyond our solar system as well.

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Google Researchers Discover an 8th Planet in the Kepler-90 System 17 comments

Google's research team Google AI has applied machine learning to data from NASA's Kepler space observatory, finding an 8th exoplanet orbiting Kepler-90 (2,545 ly away). The team also found a sixth exoplanet orbiting Kepler-80 (1,100 ly away):

Our solar system now is tied for most number of planets around a single star, with the recent discovery of an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star 2,545 light years from Earth. The planet was discovered in data from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope.

The newly-discovered Kepler-90i – a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days – was found using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence in which computers "learn." In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.

[...] Kepler-90i wasn't the only jewel this neural network sifted out. In the Kepler-80 system, they found a sixth planet. This one, the Earth-sized Kepler-80g, and four of its neighboring planets form what is called a resonant chain – where planets are locked by their mutual gravity in a rhythmic orbital dance. The result is an extremely stable system, similar to the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system.

Their research paper reporting these findings has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. [Christopher] Shallue and [Andrew] Vanderburg plan to apply their neural network to Kepler's full set of more than 150,000 stars.

The size of Kepler-90i is estimated at 1.32 ± 0.21 Earth radii. Surface temperature is estimated at 435°C (709 K).

Kepler-80g is likely smaller at 1.13 ± 0.14 Earth radii, with a cooler surface temperature of 144°C (418 K).

The outermost known exoplanet in the Kepler-90 system, Kepler-90h, has a mass under 1.2 Jupiter masses and a temperature of around 292 K (19 °C; 66 °F), so it may be a good candidate for hosting life on a moon.

NASA will host a Reddit AMA at 3 PM EST to discuss the findings.

Also at University of Texas at Austin.

Related: Seven Earth-Sized Exoplanets, Including Three Potentially Habitable, Identified Around TRAPPIST-1

Previously: Google and NASA to Reveal Mysterious New Space Find

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  • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @11:08AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @11:08AM (#609177)

    How do you keep a moron in suspense for a day? I'll tell you tomorrow!

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:26PM (2 children)

      by bzipitidoo (4388) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @12:26PM (#609191) Journal

      But in this case, the answer is not that hard to figure out, even if the article hadn't all but revealed it anyway. Google is making a big splash in AI, with these recent triumphs in the classic strategy games Go and chess. Now, what uses are there for this superhuman AI that is so good at learning and pattern recognition?

      If you know a little about astronomy, you know that there are petabytes of data archived from years of sky surveys which no one has ever examined because there aren't enough astronomers to look at everything. But employing a simpleminded automatic scan to dig through all that data for interesting objects isn't practical either. The images are full of noise and artifacts. Simple scanning isn't up to that job, need people to judge whether a few odd looking pixels is just an artifact or an error, or a known object, or something new to us. A similar area is Optical Character Recognition. OCR is one of those exasperating problems that just doesn't seem like it can be so hard for computers to do, but it is. OCR algorithms are poor at reading printed text, and make all kinds of stupid, brainless mistakes a person would never make.

      Enter Google's hot new AI, AlphaGo Zero. It probably can quickly learn to pick out and identify all the stars in typical, noisy photos of the night sky. I have no doubt one trained instance of Google's neural network AI can examine photos by the thousands per hour, and present human astronomers with the short list of all unknown objects in those photos, and be almost 100% correct.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Aiwendil on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:31PM (2 children)

      by Aiwendil (531) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:31PM (#609204) Journal

      I agree - I never got the point of all of those "Announcement: We'll be having an announcement soon"-announcements. First up the first announcement is the one that will get all the attention (the second will drown in the noise and ire of the first one) and secondly just say what the heck you have to say directly instead.

      Or hey, allow me to preempt 2018 - NASA, IBM, Google, Apple, Hitachi, Seagate, Toshiba, Facebook, Twitter, et al. will all make announcements about some new products or discoveries.
      There, can we now skip all such stories since they are already covered?

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:14PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @02:14PM (#609208)

        Why stop there? "We announce that we will announce next week when we will announce the date of our announcement of new results."

        • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:27PM

          by Freeman (732) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @05:27PM (#609281) Journal

          Sounds like an Early Access game.

          Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13 2017, @06:04PM (#609301)

    Google: "On Kolob we found copies of our personal tracking data on you."

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by jdccdevel on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:28PM (1 child)

    by jdccdevel (1329) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @09:28PM (#609399) Journal

    I'm hoping someone figured out how to use the Kepler data to discover lots of new Asteroid and Kuniper belt objects (i.e, things in our solar system) or some other novel use of the Kepler data it wasn't intended for.

    That would be cool, and it'd be interesting to learn what they came up with.

    On the other hand, if they're just announcing a bunch of new exo-planets... That's interesting, but that's what the Kepler data is for. That AI did the looking is kind of unremarkable for me.... from my understanding the criteria for detecting a exo-planet in that data are quite well established and understood by now.