The Atlantic

Using AI to Find a Cosmic Looking Glass

The automation of astronomy has only just begun—and there's no telling where it will end.
Source: NASA / ESA / M. Postman / CLASH

Imagine you’re Edwin Hubble in 1923, about to prove that the Milky Way is just one galaxy in a universe filled with them. You have just spotted a faraway variable star. You write down a note about that star on a photographic plate: “VAR!”

Or imagine it’s 1977, and you’re reading a printout from a radio telescope that listens for aliens, red pen in hand, when you find a long, strange, still-unexplained signal. “Wow!” you write.

Or imagine it’s August 2017, you’re signed on to Slack, and you’ve just seen the smoldering wreckage of a collision of two neutron stars. “!” you type

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