AI discovers over 300 unknown exoplanets in Kepler telescope data


A fresh AI algorithm has revealed over 300 unknown exoplanets in data collected by a now-defunct exoplanet-hunting telescope.


The Kepler, NASA's first dedicated exoplanet hunter telescope, has detected hundreds of thousands of stars in the hunt for potentially habitable worlds outside our solar system. The collection of potential planets it had accumulated continues generating new discoveries even after the telescope's expiration. Astronomers analyze the data for signs of exoplanets. But a new algorithm called ExoMiner can now caricaturist that procedure and search the catalog faster and more efficiently.


The telescope, which stopped working in late 2018, looked for partial decreases in the brightness of the stars that might be affected by a planet crossing in front of the star's disk as viewed from Kepler's perspective. But not all such darkening are caused by exoplanets, and astronomers had to follow elaborate procedures to differentiate false positives from the real stuff, according to a statementfrom NASA


ExoMiner, is a so-called neural network, a type of AI algorithm that can study and improve its abilities when provided a sufficient amount of data. And Kepler created plenty of data: In the less than 10 years of its service, the telescope revealed thousands of planet candidates, nearly 3,000 of which have since been confirmed. That is a immense majority of the overall 4,569 exoplanets currentlyknown.


For each candidate exoplanet, astronomers poring through the Kepler data would look at the light curve and evaluate how large a portion of the star the planet looks to be covering. They would also explore how long it appears to take the would-be planet to cross the star's disk. In some scenarios, the observed brightness variations are not likely to be explained by an orbiting exoplanet. The ExoMiner algorithm follows exactly the same procedure but more efficiently, which allowed the astronomers to add a group of 301 previously unknown exoplanets into the Kepler planet catalog at once.

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