And we’re tied, folks.
Thanks to Google and some fancy artificial intelligence, we now know that our solar system is just slightly less unique than we may have thought.
Scientists have discovered an eighth planet circling the sunlike star Kepler-90, 2,545 light-years away. This means that our solar system and Kepler 90 are now tied for the most number of known planets within a star system.
So yeah, maybe we’re not that special after all.
The newfound planet, named Kepler-90i, was found using machine learning technology from Google that effectively teach a computer to spot patterns in large datasets.
In this case, the dataset was compiled of signals spotted by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope, which discovers planets by spotting the slight dips in a star’s light that happen when a planet passes in front of its star from Earth’s perspective. That movement is called a transit.
Astronomer Andrew Vanderburg and Google’s Christopher Shallue trained the artificial intelligence by first showing it how to pick out transits from 15,000 signals they already knew were from actual exoplanets, NASA said.
After that, they moved on to the hard stuff. Vanderburg and Shallue then used the technology to look at the data from 670 other star systems that they knew had planets to find any other worlds that may be lurking in the data.
Kepler-90i is one of those worlds.
“We got lots of false positives of planets, but also potentially more real planets,” Vanderburg said in a statement. “It’s like sifting through rocks to find jewels. If you have a finer sieve then you will catch more rocks but you might catch more jewels, as well.”
Scientists also found another planet, Kepler-80g, circling a star with five other planets orbiting it.
Kepler-90i isn’t the kind of place you want to jet off to for a quick vacation, however.
While the world is rocky, it’s also exceedingly hot. The planet completes an orbit of its star once every 14.4 Earth days and likely has an average surface temperature of about 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Kepler 90 system is also very different from our own.
If all eight planets in that system were moved into our solar system, they would all fit within Earth’s orbit. In other words, all of the planets are closer to Kepler 90 than our Earth is to the sun, according to NASA.
“These results demonstrate the enduring value of Kepler’s mission,” Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist, said in the statement.
“New ways of looking at the data — such as this early-stage research to apply machine learning algorithms — promises to continue to yield significant advances in our understanding of planetary systems around other stars. I’m sure there are more firsts in the data waiting for people to find them.”