Machine Learning Just Classified Over Half a Million Galaxies

Shows some of the galaxies in Subaru's image set that allows them to be classified.

Humanity is still a long way away from a fully artificial intelligence system. For now at least, AI is particularly good at some specialized tasks, such as classifying cats in videos.  Now it has a new skill set: identifying spiral patterns in galaxies.

As with all AI skills, this one started out with categorized data.  In this case, that data consisted of images of galaxies taken by the Subaru Telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii.  The telescope is run by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), and has identified upwards of 560,000 galaxies in images it has taken.

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What’s Possible When Earth and Space-based Telescopes Work Together?

Anyone who has ever worked on a team knows that their strength lies in coordination and a shared vision.  However, it is not always easy to provide that coordination and shared vision, and any team that lacks that cohesiveness becomes more of a hindrance than a help. 

Science is not immune to the difficulties of running effective teams.  There is plenty to be gained from more coordination between differing silos and physical locations.  Recently a meeting in Chile prompted a group of scientists to propose a plan to change that.  The result is a white paper that points out the potential benefits of coordinating ground, orbital and in situ based observations of objects.  But more importantly, it suggests a different path forward where all of the space science community can benefit from the type of coordinated output that can only come from a cohesive team.

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Asteroids Somehow Migrated Past Jupiter During the Solar System’s Early History

In baseball, players receive a Gold Glove award if they show outstanding fielding play throughout the course of the season.  Basically, they can’t let any ball get past them when playing in the field.  If a Gold Glove award was handed to planets in our solar system, it would undoubtedly be given to Jupiter.  It has long been thought that the massive gas giant hoovered up all of the asteroids in its vicinity.  In doing so, it would have created two distinct zones of asteroids – those inside it’s orbit and those outside.

Now scientists are starting to cast doubt on such a bifurcated model of the early solar system.  And they’re using hundreds of meteorites to do it.

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Antarctica Is the Best Place On Earth for a Telescope, Is Also the Hardest Place to Put a Telescope

Twinkling stars might make for spectacular viewing on a hot summer’s night, but they are an absolute nightmare to astronomers. That twinkling is caused by disturbances in the Earth’s atmosphere, and can wreak havoc on brightness readings, a key tool for astronomers everywhere.  Those readings are used for everything from understanding galaxy formation to the detection of exoplanets.

Astronomers now have a new potential location to try to avoid the twinkling.  Only one problem though: it’s really cold, especially this time of year.  A team of astronomers from Canada, China, and Australia have identified a part of Antarctica as the ideal place to put observational telescopes.  Now the challenge becomes how to actually build one there.

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This Is Fascinating. An Image of a Galaxy’s Magnetic Field

There’s always more than one way to look at the world.  There’s also more than one way to look at a galaxy.  And sometimes combining those ways of looking can result in something truly special.

That is what happened recently when a team of astronomers from seven different universities in four different countries used three different telescopes to produce an absolutely spectacular image of a galaxy and its surrounding magnetic field.

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Saturn-sized Planet Found in the Habitable Zone of Another Star. The First Planet Completely Discovered by Amateur Astronomers

Exoplanets have been a particularly hot topic of late.  More than 4000 of them have been discovered since the first in 1995.  Now one more can potentially be added to the list. This one is orbiting Gliese 3470, a red dwarf star located in the constellation Cancer.  What makes this discovery particularly interesting is that this planet wasn’t discovered by any professional astronomers using high tech equipment like the Kepler Space Telescope.  It was found entirely by amateurs.

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The Moons of Uranus Are Fascinating Enough On Their Own That We Should Send a Flagship Mission Out There

What’s the most interesting fact you know about Uranus? The fact that its rotational axis is completely out of line with every other planet in the solar system?  Or the fact that Uranus’ magnetosphere is asymmetrical, notably tilted relative to its rotational axis, and significantly offset from the center of the planet?  Or the fact that it’s moons are all named after characters from Shakespeare or Alexander Pope?

All of those facts (with the exception of the literary references) have come from a very limited dataset. Some of the best data was collected during a Voyager 2 flyby in 1986. Since then, the only new data has come from Earth-based telescopes.  While they’ve been steadily increasing in resolution, they have only been able to scratch the surface of what may be lurking in the system surrounding the closest Ice Giant.  Hopefully that is about to change, as a team of scientists has published a white paper advocating for a visit from a new Flagship class spacecraft.

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They’re In! The First Images From ESA’s Solar Orbiter

While actually walking on the sun is still just a dream of Smash Mouth fans, humanity has gotten a little bit closer to our nearest solar neighbor with the recent launch of the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter (SolO).

SolO has just produced its first round of photographs of the sun in action and they are already revealing some features that have been unseen until now.  Those features might even hold the key to understanding one of the holy grails of heliophysics.

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Curiosity Is Going To Spend Its Summer Driving Around a Dangerous Sandy Region on Mars

Do road trips actually require roads? Not if you’re NASA’s Curiosity rover, who is embarking on an extended 1 mile long road trip this summer up the side of Mount Sharp.

The rover will be moving between two “units” of Gale Crater, where it has been exploring since 2014.  It’s wrapping up experiments in the “clay-bearing unit”, which resulted in the highest concentrations of clay found during the mission.  It’s now moving to the “sulfate-bearing unit”, which is expected to contain an abundance of sulfates, such as gypsum and Epsom salts.

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More Details On NASA’s VERITAS Mission, Which Could Go to Venus

Venus has always been a bit of the odd stepchild in the solar system.  It’s similarities to Earth are uncanny: roughly the same size, mass, and distance from the sun.  But the development paths the two planets ended up taking were very different, with one being the birthplace of all life as we know it, and the other becoming a cloud-covered, highly pressurized version of hell.  That cloud cover, which is partially made up of sulfuric acid, has also given the planet an air of mystery. So much so that astronomers in the early 20th century speculated that there could be dinosaurs roaming about on the surface.

Some of that mystery will melt away if a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory gets a chance to launch their newest idea for a mission to the planet, the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topograph, and Spectroscopy (or VERITAS) mission.

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