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AI Helps Out Astronomers, Discovers Two New Exoplanets

Pixabay/ Public Domain

As time goes on, we figure out that there are increasingly more ways Artificial Intelligence can be useful to us. From the smart assistants on our phones to chatbots helping us out online, to self-driving cars and computers smart enough to beat humans at games, there are so many ways AIs are useful to us. And yet, another application for this technology has just been discovered – it can discover new planets in the Universe.

There are billions of stars out there, and just as many planets, most of which we have no idea about because the amount of data received from out powerful telescopes is more than scientists can handle. That’s why amateur astronomers have begun delving into the data too, helping out professionals and satisfying their passion. Regularly, astronomers apply the same old method of figuring out whether they discovered a new planet or not – they use the transit method. In short, a telescope focuses on a series of stars for a long period of time. During that time, the light of the star dims periodically, as planets orbit it. Any dip in the brightness of the star indicates a planet passed in front of it. When a solar system exists, and more planets orbit a particular star, the dips in brightness happen in certain patterns.

But now, artificial intelligence is here to help sift through the data, The AIs can be helpful in understanding these patterns and making calculations far faster than humans could.

The newly helpful AI was trained by one Google AI software engineer, Christopher Shallue, and an astronomer with the University of Texas, Austin, Andrew Vanderburg. The training involves identifying planets by analyzing brightness dips recorded by Kepler.

“In my spare time, I started Googling for ‘finding exoplanets with large data sets’ and found out about the Kepler mission and the huge data set available. Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can’t search it for themselves,” Shallue said.

The neural network put together by Shallue has a 96% accuracy. Some false-positives were discovered, but it generally does its job well.

Thanks to the AI, the Kepler-90 solar system now has eight planets, while the Kepler-80 system has a brand new sixth planet.

These discoveries are obviously, just the beginning, and the results are only going to get more exact as time goes on and the machine learning process does its job. Obviously, finding exoplanets is just one way AI can be of help to astronomers, but it’s obviously a great step in the right direction.

This is proof that AI has many uses. Just like with the immense data set from Kepler, AI is of great use to cybersecurity, analyzing threats from all over the globe, putting two and two together and helping every security company on this planet tune their tools to protect the billions of computers and devices out there. If you know what the threat looks like, you know how to protect against it.

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