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For The Daily Beast:
For the first time, NASA has used machine learning to identify two new planets in distant star systems. One of those worlds is the eighth in its system, making that planetary system the largest-known yet discovered.
We know stars can have eight planets already (hello, Solar System!), so that’s no surprise. The excitement comes in how this new world was found: using an artificial intelligence machine learning method known as “neural networks.”
On Thursday afternoon, Christopher Shallue, a senior software engineer at Google Brain, and Andrew Vanderburg, an astrophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin, announced the new worlds in a press conference. It’s the eighth planet orbiting the 90th star in the Kepler observatory’s catalog, so it carries the name Kepler-90i. It’s a smallish, rocky planet orbiting very close to its host star. This method also identified a fifth planet in the Kepler-80 system, described in the same research paper.