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Artificial Intelligence Identifies 6,000 Crater Impacts on the Moon

March 26, 2018
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Artificial Intelligence Identifies 6,000 Crater Impacts on the Moon

Researchers at U of T Scarborough developed a new technique based on A.I. The new technique can measure the size and location of crater impacts on the moon.

This new technology is similar to that used for self-driving cars.

“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 from artificial intelligence that can automate this entire process that saves significant time and effort,” said Mohamad Ali-Dib, a postdoctoral fellow at University of Toronto’s Centre for Planetary Sciences and co-developer of the technology, in a news release.

Orbiting satellites around the moon collect elevation maps. Using this data, researchers trained the algorithm on an area that covers two-thirds of the Moon’s surface.

Researchers used a similar method before. In the past, they tried to develop algorithms that could identify and count lunar craters. But they struggled to do so in unseen patches of craters.

However, Ali-Dib together with his colleagues developed a new technique that can generalize very well to unseen lunar patches.

“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,” says Ali-Dib.

Moon’s surface undergoes very little erosion. That’s because the moon doesn’t have flowing water, plate tectonics or an atmosphere. So, the ancient craters remain relatively intact. Thus, researchers can study factors like age, size, and impact to help us understand the solar system’s evolution.

Ali-Dib says the plan is to further improve the algorithm to allow researchers to find more craters. They also plan to test it on other solar system bodies like Mars, Ceres and the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) funded the research. However, the journal Icarus is currently reviewing it.

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Thumbnail image: Keeler crater. Credit: NASA

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