NASA's Kepler mission announced in December the discovery of an eighth planet orbiting Kepler 90, a sun-like star located about 2,500 light years from Earth.
The discovery is noteworthy not only for the fact that Kepler 90 possesses as many planets as our own solar system, but also for how NASA made the discovery: using artificial intelligence.
Mining Data for Exoplanet Gems
"Training" special AI software, developed by Google, to recognize the elusive signals produced by extrasolar planets (exoplanets), NASA set the AI loose on data collected years ago by the Kepler mission.
The Kepler spacecraft, launched in 2009, searched for exoplanets using the Transit Method: looking for the slight dimming in a star's light caused by an orbiting planet crossing in front of it (transiting). Kepler continually measured the brightness of 150,000 individual stars near the constellation Cygnus for three years, beaming the data back to Earth for analysis and storage.
Conventional analysis of Kepler's observations ultimately revealed seven planets in the star system called Kepler 90. But the system's eighth planet, named Kepler 90i, went undetected--until the AI took a crack at it.