Artificial Intelligence Detects 72 Mysterious Radio Bursts From Space

Posted: Sep 12 2018, 9:01am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Artificial Intelligence Detects 72 Mysterious Radio Bursts from Space
Credit: Daniel John Reardonr

New fast radio bursts came from an unknown source some 3 billion light years from Earth.

Fast radio bursts have puzzled astronomers since they were first detected around a decade ago. These bursts are extremely bright flashes of radio light that travel billions of light years from beyond our galaxy to reach Earth and appear momentarily on the sky. However, origin and nature of FRBs are still largely a mystery due to limited recordings. Because these flashes last just a few milliseconds, they are unpredictable and difficult to locate and observe. As a result, only dozens of FRBs have been detected so far.

That is going to change with new artificial intelligence system of SETI, an ongoing scientific effort to find signatures of intelligent life in the universe. Researchers at Breakthrough Listen, a SETI project led by the University of California, Berkeley, have applied an improved machine learning technique to detect 72 new fast radio bursts from an unknown source some 3 billion light years from Earth. It is the first time an AI has been used to trace fast radio bursts.

“This work is exciting not just because it helps us understand the dynamic behavior of fast radio bursts in more detail, but also because of the promise it shows for using machine learning to detect signals missed by classical algorithms.” Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and principal investigator for Breakthrough Listen, said in a statement.

The dozens of new fast radio bursts came from FRB 121102, which is located in a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light-years away. While most FRBs flash once in the sky and then disappear forever, FRB 121102 is different. It was first spotted in 2012 and has produced repeated bursts ever since. This unique behavior of FRB 121102 has allowed researchers to conduct follow-up observations with radio and optical telescopes.

In August 2017, researchers observed FRB 121102 for five hours through Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and identified a total of 21 radio bursts using standard computer algorithms. When UC Berkeley researchers and their collaborators developed a new, powerful machine-learning algorithm and reanalyzed the 2017 data, they found 72 additional bursts. This brings the total number of detected bursts from FRB 121102 to around 300 since its discovery. The algorithm known as the convolutional neural network was able to recognize those radio bursts that other systems tend to miss.

“These results hint that there could be vast numbers of additional signals that our current algorithms are missing and clearly demonstrate the power of applying modern data analytics and AI tools to astronomical research,” said SETI Institute President and CEO Bill Diamond. “Applying these techniques in the search for evidence of extraterrestrial technologies, or technosignatures, is incredibly compelling, together with addressing the tantalizing phenomena of FRBs.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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