AI Found 6,000 New Craters On The Moon

Posted: Mar 17 2018, 1:22am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 17 2018, 3:05am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
AI Locates 6,000 Undiscovered Craters on Moon
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

An artificial intelligence algorithm learns to identify craters on the moon

Researchers have found over 6,000 previously unidentified craters on the moon by using artificial intelligence. The AI system works on the same principle as self-driving cars and measures the size and location of a lunar patch to classify it as an impact crater.

"When it comes to counting craters on the moon, it's a pretty archaic method," said Mohamad Ali-Dib from Centre for Planetary Sciences (CPS).

"Basically we need to manually look at an image, locate and count the craters and then calculate how large they are based on the size of the image. Here we've developed a technique based on artificial intelligence that can automate this entire process that saves significant time and effort."

The Moon’s surface is cluttered with impacts craters. These impact craters are created when objects like meteorites smashed into the moon and left holes or cavities on the surface. In the past, AI algorithms have been used to identify craters on the moon but they turned out to be unreliable. The new algorithm, on the other hand, was able to track even those lunar patches that were not so easy to spot. Its end result was far better than traditional manual counting.

"It's the first time we have an algorithm that can detect craters really well for not only parts of the moon, but also areas of Mercury,” Ali-Dib said.

The new algorithm is based on artificial neural networks that have often been applied to analyze visual imagery. Researchers taught the algorithm to distinguish edges of a crater from other geological shapes, including mountains and ridges. Then, they fed it 90,000 images of the moon surface taken from different orbiting satellites and allowed it to identify craters larger than five kilometers (three miles) in diameter.

To check the accuracy, researchers first used the algorithm on a large dataset covering two-thirds of the moon. Then, they tested it on remaining a third of the moon. The algorithm located 6,883 new craters, significantly enhancing the number of already known craters.

"Tens of thousands of unidentified small craters are on the moon, and it's unrealistic for humans to efficiently characterize them all by eye," said Silburt from University of Toronto’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"There's real potential for machines to help identify these small craters and reveal undiscovered clues about the formation of our solar system."

Next, researchers are planning to further improve the algorithm. Once improved, it can even identify the craters below five meters and can also be tested on other bodies of our solar system like Mars, Ceres and the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

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