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AI helps find mysterious cosmic radio bursts

11 Sep 2018, 10:30 UTC
AI helps find mysterious cosmic radio bursts
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An artist’s impression of the Greenbank Telescope in West Virginia receiving signals from fast radio burst FRB 121102. Image credit: Danielle Futselaar/UC Berkeley
Artificial intelligence is invading many fields, most recently astronomy and the search for intelligent life in the universe, or SETI. Researchers at Breakthrough Listen, a SETI project led by the University of California, Berkeley, United States, have now used machine learning to discover 72 new fast radio bursts from a mysterious source some three billion light years from Earth.
Fast radio bursts are bright pulses of radio emission mere milliseconds in duration, thought to originate from distant galaxies. The source of these emissions is still unclear, however. Theories range from highly magnetised neutron stars blasted by gas streams from a nearby supermassive black hole, to suggestions that the burst properties are consistent with signatures of technology developed by an advanced civilisation.
“This work is exciting not just because it helps us understand the dynamic behaviour 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,” says Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Centre and principal investigator for Breakthrough Listen, ...

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