NASA scientists have confirmed the existence of hundreds of new planets outside our solar system. NASA said 301 exoplanets have recently been validated and added to the total.
The discoveries were made thanks to a new machine learning method called ExoMiner that separates stars and planets far into space.
ExoMiner examines data previously collected by NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions to determine what is a planet and what is not. The missions gather information about thousands of stars, and each of them can host multiple exoplanets.
“It’s a huge time-consuming task to go through huge data sets. ExoMiner solves that problem,” NASA said in a press release.
Just as all the planets in our solar system orbit the sun, the planets that orbit other stars are called exoplanets.
Before the existence of an exoplanet is “validated,” scientists “confirm” when various observational techniques reveal features that can only be explained on the planet. Some of the clues that scientists are looking for to find and characterize exoplanets are the oscillation of stars, the sinking of light, and small movements.
The planet will then be “validated” using statistics – meaning how likely or unlikely it is to be based on the data, NASA explained.
“When ExoMiner says something is a planet, you can be sure it is a planet,” added Hamed Valizadegan, ExoMiner Project Director and Machine Learning Manager at Ames University Space Research Association. “ExoMiner is very accurate and in some ways more reliable than both the current classifiers of the machine and the human experts it is supposed to imitate because of the biases that human markings bring.”
These 301 new exoplanets add 4,569 more already validated.
This artist concept presents K2-138, the first multi-planetary system discovered by civic researchers. The center star is a little smaller and cooler than our sun. NASA / JPL-Caltech
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On average, there is at least one planet for every star in the galaxy. This means that there are some billions of planets in our galaxy alone, many of which are Earth-sized, according to NASA.
NASA said none of the recently confirmed planets are believed to be Earth-like or habitable.
NASA researchers now said they have trained ExoMiner with Kepler data, so learning information can be transferred to other tasks.
“There’s room to grow,” Valizadegan said.
This story was reported from Detroit.