Solar system with eight planets found

Another solar system has eight planets.
Another solar system has eight planets.
Image: NASA.
In another scientific first, researchers have used computers to discover a second eight-planet solar system.

     Up until now, scientists thought our sun had more planets in orbit than any other known solar system. But during a press conference today, an astronomer, working with a computer expert from Google, said the distant Kepler 90 system has eight planets also. 
     Researchers made the discovery using a computer taught to identify exoplanets in the light readings recorded by the Kepler space telescope. The computer analyzed data from Kepler and found a previously unknown planet, dubbed Kepler 90i.      
     Launched in 2009, Kepler is a robotic spacecraft that has taken images of stars. The instrument captures planets as they transit in front of their respective stars, causing a dimming of the star’s light. The telescope's four-year data set consists of 35,000 possible planetary signals.
     "Scientists selected the strongest signals, which are the most likely to be actual planets, to receive the most attention," explained Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google, who helped train a computer to recognize Kepler's signals. "If we wanted to search for planets in the weaker signals from Kepler space telescope, it would be like looking for needles in a much, much larger haystack. There are simply too many weak signals to examine using the existing methods."
     The computer. however, can identify planets even with a weak signal.
     Kepler 90 is a star 2,545 light-years from Earth. It is similar to our sun, but hotter and more massive, according to an astronomer involved in the research, Andrew Vanderburg, a NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. Its known planets are orbiting close to the star and not habitable. The newly discovered planet -- Kepler 90i -- is rocky and orbits its star once every 14.4 days.
     But the planet is "not a place I'd like to go visit," Vanderburg explains. "The surface is likely scorching hot. We calculated that it probably has an average temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit."
     It is possible that there are more planets that the telescope did not spot around Kepler 90. But it is also true that scientists have found evidence of a ninth planet in our solar system. 
      "Kepler has already shown us that most stars have planets," said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA headquarters in Washington. "Today, Kepler confirms that stars can have large families of planets, just like our solar system."
     The computer also found a sixth planet in the Kepler-80 system -- the Earth-sized Kepler-80g.


      Astronomers spot possible "exomoon"

     Scientists: 10 more planets could host life

     Scientists find evidence of "Planet Nine"

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