5 things to know about NASA’s big Kepler reveal on Thursday


5 things to know about NASA’s big Kepler reveal on Thursday

Researchers at NASA plan to reveal the latest discovery made by its “planet-hunting” Kepler space telescope Thursday, the agency announced in a press release.

Here are five things to know about the Kepler discovery announcement:

What is the Kepler mission?

The Kepler mission, NASA Discovery’s tenth mission, first launched in March 2009 with a goal to survey the Milky Way and hunt for Earth-size and smaller planets near the galaxy or “habitable” regions of planets’ parent stars.

In 2014, the Kepler space telescope began a new extended mission called K2, which continues the hunt for planets outside our solar system along with its other cosmic tasks.

According to Space.com, “Kepler spots alien worlds by noticing the tiny brightness dips they cause when they cross the face of their host star from the spacecraft's perspective.”

Since 2009, Kepler has discovered thousands of exoplanets ranging between Earth-size and Neptune-size (four times the size of Earth).

As of December 2017, the spacecraft has found 2,337 confirmed planets and 4,496 potential planets.

Last month, scientists analyzing Kepler data found 20 planets that could potentially host life.

What do we know about Thursday’s reveal?

According to the Dec. 8 press release, the new Kepler discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google.

That’s about all NASA revealed.

Who will be speaking at the teleconference, according to the press release?

  • Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA headquarters (Washington, D.C.)
  • Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI (Mountain View, California)
  • Andrew Vanderburg, astronomber and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Texas, Austin
  • Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center (Silicon Valley)

What is the science community predicting about the big reveal?

According to Popular Mechanics, it’s possible that NASA teamed up with Google to create an algorithm using machine learning (an approach to artificial intelligence) to find even more exoplanets that Kepler may have missed.

By the list of engineers and scientists expected to speak Thursday and their respective fields of expertise, the Independent reported the discovery likely has to do with “exoplanets, their stars, and potentially asteroids.”

And Google’s involvement suggests Kepler may be using the company’s artificial intelligence technology during its mission.

But in general, science writers are expecting some “big alien-planet news.

How to watch the teleconference live:

The teleconference will begin at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 14. You can watch the live stream event at nasa.gov/live.

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