NASA will announce new discoveries made by 'planet-hunting' telescope this week


NASA says it will host a 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 press conference to announce new discoveries made by the “planet-hunting” Kepler space telescope. 

The U.S. space agency reports in a news release that this new discovery was made with help from machine learning from Google. Researchers used Google’s machine learning to analyze findings from the Kepler in a different way and as an answer to approaching artificial intelligence. 

That is about as in-depth as NASA gets in regards to Google’s machine learning and the new discovery itself in the news release. The press conference can be followed along with at NASA.gov/live, the space agency’s social media channels and most likely its YouTube page. 

“The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google,” the space agency says in the release. “Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data.”

The announcement is expected to deal with information surrounding a new exoplanet, or potentially exoplanets, on Thursday. The Kepler space telescope was launched in 2009, to help find how common planets outside of Earth’s solar system are. 

The Kepler telescope was the first NASA mission fully capable of finding Earth-sized planets in or near a habitable zone. Space.com reports that the telescope stares at a single patch of sky looking for “alien planets.” NASA says the telescope is able to accomplish this by detecting a drop in a star’s brightness, which happens when a planet passes in front of it. 

Eight years after it launched, NASA says the telescope has them believing there could be at least one planet orbiting every single star in the sky. Since 2014, the Kepler has continued to search for planets outside of Earth’s solar system while coming across young stars, supernovae and “other cosmic phenomena.” 

In November, NASA announced that the Kepler had discovered the second-closest known Earth-sized planet located in the habitable zone 11 light years away. Back in June, the space agency announced the Kepler had identified 219 new planet candidates which included 10 Earth-sized ones. 

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