Yesterday it was announced that an eighth planet had been confirmed to be orbiting the Sun-like star Kepler-90. What makes this news even more remarkable is the fact that it was discovered by an AI – artificial intelligence.
NASA’s Space Telescope Kepler was tasked with the mission to find out how many Earth-sized planets orbit Sun-like stars. This is typically done by observing a dip in the light curve – a graph of the light intensity from a star plotted against time – due to a planet transiting the parent star. However, Earth like planets do not always create a significant dip when they transit their parent star and are thus on the edge of the telescopes sensitivity. Therefore, to make sure a transiting event is not missed the human eye is required to look through all the data – even that of low signal-to-noise-ratios – which is time consuming and sometimes not effective.
Now, for the first time, astronomers have used neural networks to predict whether a given signal is a transiting exoplanet or not. Their findings have been verified with a confidence level of 98.8% and in doing so confirmed the eighth planet around the sun-like star Kepler-90.
This is of huge significance not only to the achievements of AI and developments in astronomical techniques, but also to our understanding of life in the Universe.