NASA To Reveal Kepler Breakthrough: What Did Google AI Find?


NASA just announced a major teleconference Thursday and everyone following the space agency’s developments is excited. An official announcement on the NASA website said it is gearing up for a teleconference to reveal a major breakthrough made by the Kepler space telescope, which is currently hunting the universe for exoplanets.

The Friday release said the Kepler mission, NASA’s most prolific exoplanet finder in history, hit a major breakthrough with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

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The discovery used Google’s machine learning algorithms to possibly develop a new way of analyzing data from the Kepler spacecraft. Google’s machine learning approach to artificial intelligence is considered the world’s pioneering application in the field. The neural net-based service helps machines process information and extract their own findings from it, effectively learning from the result.

The space agency called for a press teleconference Thursday at 1 p.m. EST, which will be streamed live on NASA Live. The news release contained a briefing of the discovery, which mentioned Google’s AI was key to the findings.

Kepler was zooming around in our region of the Milky Way, providing scientists with information about the hundreds of small planets in a region of the galaxy that could possibly have planets capable of hosting life. Kepler is on a mission to study hot planets in a region that is estimated to have highest probability of a life-capable planet. It surveyed planets around stars classified as bright M-dwarfs in the neighborhood of sun. The majority of its time was spent in identifying and studying these potentially habitable bodies, their orbit around the star and the discovery of binary stars with open clusters.

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According to the news release, Kepler helped the team at NASA make several discoveries before this.

“When Kepler launched in March 2009, scientists didn’t know how common planets were beyond our solar system. Thanks to Kepler’s treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky,” the press release said.

In 2014, the spacecraft began a new extended mission called K2, which continues the search for exoplanets, while introducing new research opportunities to study young stars, supernovae and other cosmic phenomena, the release added.

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The announcement will be attended by Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA’s Headquarters in Washington, and Kepler project scientist Jessie Dotson, from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California.

Since the discovery is fueled by Google AI’s immense data processing abilities, Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in Mountain View, California, and Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas, Austin, will be in attendance.

Most online reports and social media predictions claimed the announcement could be about a major exoplanet discovery, which is the primary mission directive of Kepler. This is seen as a major finding and people are encouraged to submit questions regarding the big disclosure or the role of AI in the Kepler mission during the conference on Twitter using the hashtag #askNASA.

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