by Jon Austin December 15, 2017 (express.co.uk)
• In a historic announcement on December 14th, NASA announced that it has discovered another solar system with eight planets orbiting a star in the Kepler 90 system, 2,500 light years from Earth. The new data was obtained by the Keplar space telescope. The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer.
• The space agency teamed up with Google to use artificial intelligence “machine learning” to search for exoplanets, which could support extraterrestrial organisms.
• NASA believes that most stars in space are likely to have a series of planets orbiting, boosting the chances of there being more like Earth with the conditions for life to evolve. For life (as we know it) to form, a planet must be rocky and at the right distance from its star to be not too hot or cold, so it can hold liquid water and an atmosphere.
• Kepler scientist Mario Perez says, “We are probably not alone.”
NASA today announced it has found another solar system just like ours with EIGHT planets… boosting the chances of finding ALIEN life elsewhere in the Universe.
The historic discovery was made by new scientific analysis of data obtained by the Kepler space telescope, which is scouring the galaxy for planets like Earth.
Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said: “We have found for the first time an eighth planet in a distant planetary system in the Kepler 90 system – this ties Kepler 90 with our own solar system for having the most known planets.
“Kepler 90 is the first star to host as many planets as our own.”
The new planet – Kepler 90i – is a small rocky planet, but very close to the sun which is hotter than ours, and is 2,500 light years from Earth.
It would be scorching hot and unable to hold life itself, although some planets in the system may be able to.
But, it means that NASA now believes most stars in space are likely to have a series of planets orbiting, boosting the chances of there being more like Earth with the conditions for life to evolve.
For life to form, it is believed that a planet must be rocky, and at the right distance from its star to be not too hot or cold, so it can hold liquid water and an atmosphere.
A team of NASA scientists who have scoured the universe looking for planets that could potentially hold alien life today made the historic announcement in a briefing at 6pm British time.
It was to unveil the latest findings of the Kepler space telescope mission.
Kepler 90i orbits its home star every 14 days and is about 30 percent bigger than Earth.
The planets in the Kepler 90 system orbit much closer to their host star than Earth is to the sun.
Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas, Austin, said: “The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer.
“Kepler 90i is about 2,500 light years away in the northern sky.
“It is the smallest of a bunch of probably rocky planets, not with thick atmospheres like the gas giants further out.
“But, I would not like to visit, it would have a surface temperature of about 800 degrees Fahrenheit, the surface would be scorching hot.
“Kepler 90 is the first exoplanet system like ours with eight planets, but I think it won’t be the last.
“Our solar system is not sole record holder for solar systems with the most planets and we have just scratched the surface. There might be more out there that make our eight look small.”
Kepler-90i wasn’t the only new planet found by the machine learning system.
In the separate Kepler-80 solar system, thought to have five planets, was a sixth.
The Earth-sized Kepler-80g, and four of its neighboring planets form what is called a resonant chain – where planets are locked by their mutual gravity in a rhythmic orbital dance.
The result is an extremely stable system, similar to the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system, previously thought to be the next biggest solar system.
Previous Kepler announcements have included the discovery of several earth-like rocky planets that were at the right distance from their star to potentially house alien life.
The team has been searching for such planets since 2009, finding around 30 Earth-sized planets orbiting within the ‘habitable zones’ of their stars and another 20 ‘possibles’.
The space agency teamed up with Google to use artificial intelligence to search for exoplanets, which could support extraterrestrial organisms.
NASA says the new discovery has been made by researchers using machine learning from Google, which is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analysing Kepler data.
The Kepler telescope recently found ten more planets outside our solar system which could be the size and temperature to support life.
A Nasa researcher hinted that aliens could be out there somewhere.
Kepler scientist Mario Perez said: “We are probably not alone.”
A NASA spokesman said: “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.”
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