Science teammate for NASA says Kepler mission is “taking baby steps”

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Jason Steffen, associate professor in physics and astronomy in Las Vegas, joins Matt Bubala to talk about the latest Kepler announcement. “There were a couple of planetary systems that have been studied in the past, but there was someone teamed up with a collaborator at Google and they used machine learning to analyze data again. In doing so, they discovered a new planet in each of those system and they discovered an eighth one,” Steffen says.

So where does the Kepler excitement come from? Steffen says “this is the first time where there is a search of algorithms where this machine learning that has been applied to Kepler data to make a discovery.” Also, the systems that these were discovered around were discovered from a relatively small planet. He says it was only twelve percent larger than the size of Earth.

 

Later on, he talks the possibiblity of alien life. “Certainly if you go back in the past, sounds like there still arebprograms to identify UFO’s, but that doesn’t mean they are from some other planetary system.”

A new mission in the works for 2018 is an exoplanet survey. This allows the ability to look at planets as they travel. This would “cover the entire sky, or ninety percent of it. It won’t be able to observe for as long of a period, but as it searches they sky, it will look for Kepler type systems that are brighter,” Steffen says. This Kepler mission has been repurposed to the K2 mission, which allows the equipment to point at different parts of the sky. Since it’s hard to point at measurements, the space craft look at parts of the sky using light to to help steer it. He says it’s important to look at stars of all ages. For more information on NASA’s or to access Steffen’s work, visit his website.