Representatives from the pair announced on Thursday that a joint venture between Google’s Artificial Intelligence software and NASA’s Kepler space telescope has resulted in an exciting, record-breaking discovery. Prior to Thursday, our own solar system was home to the highest number of known orbital planets, but after this announcement, that has all changed.
Launched in March 2009, NASA’s Kepler telescope has been steadily breaking records for discovering exoplanets outside of our own solar system. Prior to 2009, most of these discoveries have been large, Jupiter-sized exoplanets that are detected in the dim of glow when the planet passes by the star that it orbits. Kepler’s technology allowed for thousands more exoplanets to be discovered and some of these are the size of (or smaller) than Earth. The image below sourced from briefing materials at the announcement demonstrates this huge advancement using Kepler.
One fortunate problem with Kepler is that there is way too much data for scientists to observe and analyse. In fact, there are decentralized attempts at using home computing power of thousands in order to help scientists crunch the data. How could scientists work through all of this more rapidly? Ask Google. Or better yet, ask Google to unleash their new artificial intelligence technology that just last year, beat the world’s best human Go players using machine learning. Google used its increasingly keen artificial intelligence software to sift through the data and even more exoplanets were being discovered. The big announcement was for this program in general, but the significant record was that our own solar system is not so special after all… at least in terms of number of orbiting planets (for now). There are now TWO known solar systems with at least eight planets (sorry Pluto).