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Apart from our own solar system, there is another star system in the Universe that hosts eighth planets. Yes, on Thursday, NASA announced that it has discovered the record-breaking eighth planet orbiting around a distant star named Kepler-90. The name of the newly discovered planet is Kepler-90i, and it is situated almost 2,545 light years away from Earth in the Draco constellation. The latest discovery of Kepler-90i has indicated that our Solar system is not only one to harbor eight planets and is joined by the distant star system Kepler 90 which now holds eight planets.

Previously, scientists had known that the Kepler 90 star system hosts seven planets, and hence it equated with the number of planets revolving around the Trappist-1 system. But, now, with the discovery of the eighth planet Kepler 90i, scientists have declared our solar system and the Kepler star system as the joint winners of holding the highest number of planets in their system. Apart from Kepler 90i, another world was also discovered in another star system.

Both the discoveries were possible because of Google’s machine learning technology which analyzed archival data obtained by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope. Now you can say NASA googled space to find out those distant worlds. Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them,” Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. He further said that the latest findings showed that their data would be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come.

For the study, the researchers Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in California, and Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas, Austin, trained a computer to detect weak as-yet-unnoticed exoplanet signals present in Kepler data with the help of machine learning technique based on a neural network. In my spare time, I started googling for ‘finding exoplanets with large data sets’ and found out about the Kepler mission and the huge data set available, Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can’t search it for themselves.” said Shallue.

The Kepler space telescope was launched in 2009, and it discovered around 1, 50,000 stars in one part of Universe during its four year mission, before being shifted to another mission dubbed K2 in 2014. The Kepler data had collected both strong and weak signals of potential planets. So, the scientists used the artificial neural network to detect the weakest of the weak signals in 670 star systems already known to host multiple planets. They found out that there are two new alien planets or distant world orbiting in different star systems and one of them is this record-breaking eighth alien planet of Kepler 90 star system.

Vanderburg said, “The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer.” The Kepler 90i is a bit hotter than our Sun and is mostly a rocky planet that completes one orbit every 14.4 Earth days. Scientists are hopeful that there might be some more planets revolving around the Kepler 90 star system.


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