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Researchers focus AI on finding exoplanets

Alan Flurry

New research from the University of Georgia reveals that artificial intelligence can be used to find planets outside of our solar system. The recent study demonstrated that machine learning can be used to find exoplanets, information that could reshape how scientists detect and identify new planets very far from Earth.

“One of the novel things about this is analyzing environments where planets are still forming,” said Jason Terry, doctoral student in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of physics and astronomy and lead author on the study. “Machine learning has rarely been applied to the type of data we’re using before, specifically for looking at systems that are still actively forming planets.”

The first exoplanet was found in 1992, and though more than 5,000 are known to exist, those have been among the easiest for scientists to find. Exoplanets at the formation stage are difficult to see for two primary reasons. They are too far away, often hundreds of lights years from Earth, and the discs where they form are very thick, thicker than the distance of the Earth to the sun. Data suggests the planets tend to be in the middle of these discs, conveying a signature of dust and gases kicked up by the planet.

The research showed that artificial intelligence can help scientists overcome these difficulties.

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Image: Three young planets in orbit around an infant star known as HD 163296 (Photo credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF; S. Dagnello)

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