Artificial intelligence (AI) has driven a lot of advancements in different fields of study. From medicine, engineering, finance, and even the way we do groceries have all changed for the better. More importantly, AI pushes humankind’s understanding of the places we never thought possible.
From protecting humanity to making sense out of seemingly random data, here are a few examples of artificial intelligence playing a significant role in our quest to understand the universe.
Searching for New Planets
Naturally, understanding that we are not alone in the universe is a difficult concept to grasp. However, as we develop more AI and machine learning tools, we become better equipped to search for new planets. Generally, trained machine learning programs can now identify exoplanets-worlds outside our solar system-from the virtually infinite space debris floating around in space.
Before a body can be considered a planet, there are specific qualifications, such as orbiting a star (much like our Sun) and maintaining equilibrium in space. While this is easy to verify with neighboring planets, this can be extremely difficult for planets several lightyears away from our own. Some exoplanets take too slow or too fast in completing their respective revolutions.
In 2020 only, researchers confirmed the existence of about 50 new exoplanets thanks to the use of an AI system. Researchers used existing NASA data from outer space, and the automated tool validated objects from the large datasets, identifying minute and faraway things that could be considered exoplanets.
Tracking the Origin of the Universe
One of the biggest questions men have been trying to answer is the origin of everything. There are clues around us about how the entire universe came about, yet we’re still grasping at straws. Modern AI tools are being used to go through a lot of data we have on hand and try to make sense of the possible origin of the universe.
One example is improving the resolution of very distant images through intelligent computer vision and deep neural networks. It is important to note that signals we capture here on Earth are not just from distant objects; they might be signals traveling for billions of years in the past – signals indicating things that occurred at a different phase in the universe’s existence.
Processing Satellite Data
There are a lot of satellite systems orbiting Earth. Some of them are used to provide communication systems, such as the internet and GPS worldwide. Meanwhile, others are used to gather data from the rest of the galaxy-gravitational waves, ultraviolet radiation, and other forms of matter and energy blasted our way. Thanks to new smart mooring systems, these satellites are also kept firmly in place, often in sync with the Earth’s movements.
These satellites collect a large amount of data and making sense of it becomes an enormous task. Whatever is collected in space is consolidated by ground stations, organizing these data before being analyzed by research teams.
With artificial intelligence, processing big data from space and beyond has become a lot easier and faster, allowing researchers to obtain the data they need in a format that’s easily accessible. Scientists can now easily separate cosmic noise and other background signals that get mixed with the pieces of data they need. Space agencies can now compute for major events occurring far away through this particular application, even without seeing them. For example, black holes cannot be observed directly even with the latest telescopes that use radiation. AI-powered systems can, however, infer the presence of one based on the erratic behavior observed from nearby matter.
Planning Future Space Missions
The 1969 Apollo 11 mission that first landed humans on the moon was historic because of its achievement and the amazing effort that went into it. For example, Katherine Johnson computed the trajectories that allowed man to reach the moon, or programmer Margaret Hamilton wrote the code that would allow the Apollo craft to land safely on its surface.
Today, the computation and simulation of flight patterns and landing maneuvers are done chiefly through modern computers. There are a lot of factors that have to be considered, and mathematical approaches have to be modeled after them. It is now possible to do these things at a fraction of the time with artificial intelligence.
For example, researchers are currently working for a design engineering assistant that reduces the time required for the initial phases of mission designs. This AI-powered tool reduces the time needed and the materials that would otherwise go into prototype testing through accurate simulation. These tools help make future space exploration geared toward sustainability.
Uncovering the Secrets of the Universe
As we learn more about the great expanse beyond our planet, we also glean insights into what was and will be. In this effort, artificial intelligence continues to boost our capabilities in helping us prepare, understand, and respond to the findings we continue to make as we embark on bolder space exploration efforts.
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