Astronomy Generates Mountains of Data. That’s Perfect for AI

A drone's view of the Rubin Observatory under construction in 2023. The 8.4-meter telescope is getting closer to completion and first light in 2025. The telescope will create a vast amount of data that will require special resources to manage, including AI. Image Credit: Rubin Observatory/NSF/AURA/A. Pizarro D

Consumer-grade AI is finding its way into people’s daily lives with its ability to generate text and images and automate tasks. But astronomers need much more powerful, specialized AI. The vast amounts of observational data generated by modern telescopes and observatories defies astronomers’ efforts to extract all of its meaning.

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Vera Rubin Will Generate a Mind-Boggling Amount of Data

The LSST, or Vera Rubin Survey Telescope, under construction at Cerro Pachon, Chile. Image Credit: LSST

When the Vera C. Rubin Observatory comes online in 2025, it will be one of the most powerful tools available to astronomers, capturing huge portions of the sky every night with its 8.4-meter mirror and 3.2-gigapixel camera. Each image will be analyzed within 60 seconds, alerting astronomers to transient events like supernovae. An incredible five petabytes (5,000 terabytes) of new raw images will be recorded each year and made available for astronomers to study.

Not surprisingly, astronomers can’t wait to get their hands on the high-resolution data. A new paper outlines how the huge amounts of data will be processed, organized, and disseminated. The entire process will require several facilities on three continents over the course of the projected ten-year-long survey.

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