Computer identifies telescope data for evidence of distant planets

The machine-learning system uses physics principles to augment data from NASA crowdsourcing project.

A young sun-like star encircled by its planet-forming disk of gas and dust. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A young sun-like star encircled by its planet-forming disk of gas and dust. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Debris disks around stars are good indicators of exoplanets.In the latest project by NASA,  volunteers search telescopic images for evidence of debris disks in order to detect planets hospitable to life.

By using the data, MIT scientists have now created a system that searches for debris disks itself. It will rate debris disks according to their likelihood of containing detectable exoplanets. During experiments, the system precisely identified 367 previously unexamined celestial objects as particularly promising candidates for further study.

According to scientists, this work speaks to a surprising way to deal with machine learning. Ordinarily, a machine-learning framework will sift through an abundance of preparing information, searching for steady relationships between’s highlights of the information and some mark connected by a human expert. In this case, stars circled by debris disks.

Victor Pankratius, a principal research scientist at MIT’s Haystack Observatory said, “In the sciences, machine-learning systems would be more valuable in the event that they unequivocally fused a smidgen of logical comprehension, to help control their looks for relationships or recognize deviations from the standard that could be of a logical premium.”

“The main vision is to go beyond what A.I. is focusing on today. Today, we’re collecting data, and we’re trying to find features in the data. You end up with billions and billions of features. So what are you doing with them? What you want to know as a scientist is not that the computer tells you that certain pixels are certain features. You want to know ‘Oh, this is a physically relevant thing, and here are the physics parameters of the thing.'”

Scientists gathered the data from NASA’s crowdsourcing project, where the celestial coordinates of the light sources that human volunteers had identified as featuring debris disks. The disks are conspicuous as ovals of light with marginally brighter ellipses at their focuses. The specialists additionally utilized the crude galactic information created by the WISE mission.

Scientists then carved the data in the form of small units into the system by using standard signal-processing techniques. hey then examined those units with light sources and filtered out artifacts caused by the imaging instruments or by ambient light. After that, image-segmentation algorithms were used to remove any additional sources of light. These types of procedures are typical in any computer-vision machine-learning project.

Later on, basic principles of physics were utilized in order to prune the data. Scientists then observed the variation in the intensity of the light emitted by the light sources across four different frequency bands.

Dan Crichton, who leads the Center for Data Science and Technology at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “Given the scalability challenges with big data, leveraging crowdsourcing and citizen science to develop training data sets for machine-learning classifiers for astronomical observations and associated objects is an innovative way to address challenges not only in astronomy but also several different data-intensive science areas.”

“The utilization of the computer-supported disclosure pipeline depicted to computerize the extraction, characterization, and approval process will be useful for systematizing how these capacities can be united. The paper completes a decent activity of talking about the viability of this approach as connected to flotsam and jetsam circle hopefuls. The lessons learned will be essential for summing up the systems to other stargazing and diverse teaching applications.”

Marc Kuchner, a senior astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and leader of the crowdsourcing disk-detection project known as Disk Detective said, “The Disk Detective science team has been working on its own machine-learning project, and now that this paper is out, we’re going to have to get together and compare notes. I’m really glad that Nguyen is looking into this because I really think that this kind of machine-human cooperation is going to be crucial for analyzing the big data sets of the future.”