NASA is poised to announce a new discovery from its ongoing quest to find potentially habitable planets outside of our solar system. The agency will hold their news conference this Thursday, December 14th at 1 pm EST (1800 GMT). Though their Kepler space telescope has been searching for these exoplanets since 2009, the latest discovery is apparently large enough to warrant a special announcement.
According to a NASA press release, “the discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data.”
Participating in the conference will be:
- Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington
- Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in Mountain View, California
- Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas, Austin
- Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley
The previous discoveries made by the Kepler telescope came from observations it made during its initial mission which ran from 2009 to 2013. Scientists are able to determine if planets are present around neighboring stars by noticing dips in brightness as these planets cross in front of their host star. This has allowed Kepler to discover 2,500 confirmed alien planets, which makes up roughly 70% of all known exoplanets. But, as technology has progressed, scientists have now been able to take this now decade-old data and have it analyzed via AI and machine learning.
Apparently, NASA’s partnership with Google has allowed the space agency to discover a slew of additional exoplanets, though we’ll need to stay tuned this Thursday to see exactly what NASA has discovered.