British researchers have identified 50 new planets using artificial intelligence, marking a technological breakthrough in astronomy. CNN reports: Astronomers and computer scientists from the University of Warwick built a machine learning algorithm to dig through old NASA data containing thousands of potential planet candidates. It’s not always clear, however, which of these candidates are genuine. When scientists search for exoplanets (planets outside our solar system), they look for dips in light that indicate a planet passing between the telescope and their star. But these dips could also be caused by other factors, like background interference or even errors in the camera. But the new AI can tell the difference.
The research team trained the algorithm by having it go through data collected by NASA’s now-retired Kepler Space Telescope, which spent nine years in deep space on a world-hunting mission. Once the algorithm learned to accurately separate real planets from false positives, it was used to analyze old data sets that had not yet been confirmed — which is where it found the 50 exoplanets. These 50 exoplanets, which orbit around other stars, range in size from as large as Neptune to smaller than Earth, the university said in a news release. Some of their orbits are as long as 200 days, and some as short as a single day. And now that astronomers know the planets are real, they can prioritize them for further observation. The findings have been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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