NASA uses Google’s artificial intelligence to discover the 8th planet in a distant solar system

December 14, 2017 by  
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Today NASA announced that its Kepler telescope, with the help of Google AI, has discovered the 8th planet in a distant planetary system. The solar system Kepler 90 now ties our own solar system for having the most known planets. The groundbreaking discovery confirms that artificial intelligence can assist astronomers in identifying patterns in space that may be too challenging for humans. The Kepler Space Telescope launched in 2009, and since then it has discovered 2,337 exoplanets, many of which could be possible candidates for hosting life. The most exciting discovery, made in 2015, was that of Kepler-425b, the first Earth-sized planet to be discovered in a habitable zone around a star. Building upon human research, NASA utilized Google’s neural network – a sort of artificial intelligence – to make the discovery. Essentially, the system was taught to differentiate between similar but different patterns, expanding its capability and learning over time. Now, the AI has learned enough to identify subtle differences in space to detect weak signals that humans had failed to detect. This led to the discovery of the planet Kepler 90I, which researchers hadn’t noticed after searching the area. NASA says that human researchers may have eventually identified the planet, but the AI made that process much faster and more efficient. Related: Kepler data reveals 20 potentially habitable worlds 90I is a small, probably rocky planet tucked in the middle of the Kepler 90 solar system. It likely has a thin atmosphere and isn’t very hospitable to life. While Kepler 90 appears to be similar in many ways to our own solar system, it also has some distinct differences: the planets cluster close to the sun, rather than being spread out. It is also possible that this solar system may have more planets that we haven’t identified yet. + NASA

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NASA uses Google’s artificial intelligence to discover the 8th planet in a distant solar system

Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds

November 2, 2017 by  
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Many people once thought Earth was unique in outer space in its ability to support life. Recent discoveries could shatter that notion, like one new analysis of information from the Kepler Space Telescope . An international team led by Susan Thompson of the SETI Institute has discovered there might be 20 worlds where life could dwell. There could be as many as 20 habitable planets in space , according to this new discovery. One of the most promising worlds is KOI-7923.01. It’s 97 percent Earth’s size, and has a year comprised of 395 days. It is a bit colder than Earth – think more tundra and less tropical island – but it is warm enough, and it’s big enough to hold liquid water so crucial for life. Jeff Coughlin of the NASA Ames Research Center told New Scientist, “If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option.” Related: First hints of water detected on Earth-sized TRAPPIST-1 planets Many of the habitable worlds orbit stars similar to the sun. The star KOI-7923.01 orbits is a little colder than the sun, and that fact together with the exoplanet’s distance away makes KOI-7923.01 cooler than Earth. The time to complete an orbit varies among the potentially habitable worlds – at 395 days, KOI-7923.01 takes the longest. Some of the worlds finish an orbit in mere Earth weeks, or months. The quickest orbit is just 18 Earth days. Coughlin told New Scientist his team is around 70 to 80 percent sure these habitable worlds are solid candidates – they’ll need to confirm their hunch with further observations, such as from the Hubble Space Telescope or ground-based observatories. The original Kepler mission unearthed the planets, but it gazed at the same part of the sky for just four years until its reaction wheels broke, hindering its aiming ability. That means we’ve only glimpsed the planets just once or twice, and, according to New Scientist , the signals could be wobbly. The scientists recently submitted their research to a journal in the middle of October. Via New Scientist Images via NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle and NASA/W. Stenzel

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Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds

Dead rabbits found at Iowa wind farm likely used to lure and kill eagles

November 2, 2017 by  
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In a story that may have come  two days late , a local landowner-farmer in Delaware County, Iowa was shocked to discover over a dozen deceased rabbits, each with their necks broken, scattered beneath wind turbines on their land. The land is leased by RPM Access, a company that owns several wind farms throughout the state. “I don’t understand who would do something like this? I really don’t,” said Linda Slobodnik, an environmental consultant for RPM Access, according to KWWL News . Slobodnik, who has stated that this act of violence is the most disturbing incident she has seen in her 10 years in the wind industry, believes the rabbits were used to lure in eagles or other birds to the turbines, likely to kill them as well. Why would someone seek to lure and kill eagles, using dead rabbits as bait? “There are a lot of anti-wind people. At this time, we are looking at new places for projects, and I am thinking that possibly someone would like us to not build another wind farm in the area,” said Slobodnik. “I think there is a lot of people who will speak against the wind turbines. I think a lot of what they do is out of ignorance,” said RPM Access Project Manager, Kevin Lehs, according to KWWL News . Despite some local resistance, Iowa has made enormous progress towards a clean energy economy, primarily through wind power , which provided more than 36 percent of all electricity used in 2016. As it stands, Iowa is the most wind-powered state in the United States . Related: The world’s first floating wind farm just switched online Although the dead rabbits were deliberately placed, it is true that wind turbines can kill local wildlife. It is estimated that 300,000 birds are killed by wind turbines each year. That may sound like a lot, but it’s important to see these numbers in context. Wind power kills 1/15th the number of birds that fossil-fuel generated power does each year. Glass buildings in cities are also frequent bird killers. And, of course, outdoor and feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds annually. Via Elektrek and KWWL News Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Dead rabbits found at Iowa wind farm likely used to lure and kill eagles

NASA discovers 7 Earth-sized planets outside our solar system

February 22, 2017 by  
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In a press conference today, NASA scientists revealed an extraordinary new discovery – the first known system of seven rocky, Earth-sized planets orbiting a single star. Three out of the seven planets are situated at the perfect distance from the sun to potentially harbor liquid water , making them habitable for life as we know it. This is the largest number of habitable-zone planets ever found around a single star outside our own solar system . It’s important to note that simply because these planets could potentially hold liquid water doesn’t mean that they do – but the likelihood is higher given their location. The planets are orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1, located about 40 light years (or 235 trillion miles) from Earth in the Aquarius constellation. The system is named after the TRAPPIST ( The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope ), located in an observatory in Chile. In May 2016, TRAPPIST researchers announced they’d discovered three planets in the system. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was able to confirm those exoplanets’ existence and that of four additional planets. The results of NASA’s study have been published in the journal Nature today. Related: Astronomers just discovered an alien planet with three suns that shouldn’t exist What’s especially interesting about the TRAPPIST-1 system is how different its habitable zone is from that of systems like our own. Because the star is much cooler than our sun, planets much closer to the sun than Earth could potentially have liquid water. In fact, all seven of TRAPPIST-1’s planets are closer to the star than Mercury is to our own sun, and each of the planets are so close to one another they would appear in one another’s skies the same way the moon appears in ours. NASA scientists also speculate the planets may be tidally locked , so that the same side of the planet is always facing the star, casting one half of the planet in permanent daylight and the other in perpetual night. This could cause weather patterns unlike anything we’ve ever seen before on Earth, and extreme differences in temperature from one side to the other. The Spitzer telescope was able to detect the presence of the planets by observing the infrared wavelengths emitted by the star over a period of 500 hours. Each time a planet crossed in front of the star, the telescope could detect changes in the star’s brightness. NASA also followed up with a study using the Hubble Space Telescope to determine whether the planets were rocky, or likely had a “puffy” atmosphere like those of our own system’s gas giants. There’s still much about these planets we simply do not know, but studies will continue to help NASA learn more about them. Right now, the Kepler space telescope is also recording observations about the system, which will reveal more properties about the exoplanets in March. NASA’s new James Webb Telescope will also be pointed toward TRAPPIST-1 after its launch in 2018, and will analyze the planets’ temperature, surface pressure, and atmospheric makeup – all key factors that will reveal whether these worlds can actually sustain life. Via NASA Images via NASA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnKFaAS30X8

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NASA discovers 7 Earth-sized planets outside our solar system

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