Nasa has found an entire solar system with as many planets as our own.
The discovery of two new planets around the Kepler-90 star, which looks like our own sun, means that distant solar system has just as many planets as our own.
The star and its solar system were already known. But the breakthrough came when astronomers found the two new worlds, which was done using Google’s artificial intelligence technology.
A computer was trained to look through the data from the Kepler space telescope, and look for signals that might belong to planets. And it found the two new planets within an existing system, by spotting signals that seemed to indicate something of interest.
That suggests that there might be whole worlds and solar systems hiding within the data we’ve already collected, but which we hadn’t been able to notice because there is simply so many signals to pick through.
“Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them,” said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington. “This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come.”
Researcher Andrew Vanderburg said he would be surprised if there wasn’t even more planets lurking to add to the solar systems. He also said that it “almost certainly won’t be the last” system that has eight planets, suggesting our own solar system isn’t really all that extraordinary.
The Kepler-90 system isn’t a particularly good candidate for finding life. But the discovery about the sheer number of planets in each solar system does improve the chances of finding it, simply by suggesting that there could be far more exoplanets than we ever thought.