Astronomers at the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with Google, have used artificial intelligence to uncover two more hidden planets in the Kepler space telescope archive. Reportedly, this particular technique shows promise for identifying many additional planets that traditional methods could not catch.\n\nAccording to a press statement given out by the University of Texas at Austin, the planets discovered this time were from Kepler\u2019s extended mission, called K2.\n\nTo find them, the team, led by an undergraduate at UT Austin, Anne Dattilo, created an algorithm that sifts through the data taken by Kepler to ferret out signals that were missed by traditional planet-hunting methods. Long term, the process should help astronomers find many more missed planets hiding in Kepler data.\n\nOther team members include NASA Sagan fellow at UT Austin Andrew Vanderburg and Google engineer Christopher Shallue. In 2017,\u00a0Vanderburg and Shallue first used AI to uncover a planet around a Kepler star\u00a0\u2014 one already known to harbour seven planets. The discovery made that solar system the only one known to have as many planets like our own.\n\nDattilo explained that this project necessitated a new algorithm, as data taken during Kepler\u2019s extended mission K2 differs significantly from that collected during the spacecraft\u2019s original mission.\n\n\u201cK2 data is more challenging to work with because the spacecraft is moving around all the time,\u201d Vanderburg explained. This change came about after a mechanical failure. While mission planners found a workaround, the spacecraft was left with a wobble that AI had to take into account.\n\nThe Kepler and K2 missions have already discovered thousands of planets around other stars, with an equal number of candidates awaiting confirmation.\n\nThe two planets Dattilo\u2019s team found \u201care both very typical of planets found in K2,\u201d she said. \u201cThey\u2019re really close into their host star, they have short orbital periods, and they\u2019re hot. They are slightly larger than Earth.\u201d\n\nOf the two planets, one is called K2-293b and orbits a star 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The other, K2-294b, orbits a star 1,230 light-years away, also located in Aquarius.\n\nOnce the team used their algorithm to find these planets, they followed up by studying the host stars using ground-based telescopes to confirm that the planets are real. These observations were done with the 1.5-meter telescope at the Smithsonian Institution\u2019s Whipple Observatory in Arizona and the Gillett Telescope at Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.\n\nThe future of the AI concept for finding planets hidden in data sets looks bright. The current algorithm can be used to probe the entire K2 data set, Dattilo said \u2014 approximately 300,000 stars. She also believes the method is applicable to Kepler\u2019s successor planet-hunting mission, TESS, which launched in April 2018. Kepler\u2019s mission ended later that year.\n\nDattilo plans to continue her work using AI for planet hunting when she enters graduate school in the fall.