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– AI and photonics to decipher the “twinkling” of the stars… – AlKhaleej Today

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23 October 2020

The invention of Australian scientists paves the way for a “renaissance in exoplanet observation”.

Australian scientists have developed a new type of sensor to measure and correct the distortion of starlight caused by viewing the Earth’s atmosphere. This should make it easier to examine the possibility of life on distant planets.

With the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning, optical scientists at the University of Sydney have developed a sensor that can neutralize the “twinkle” of a star caused by thermal fluctuations in the Earth’s atmosphere. This will facilitate the discovery and study of planets in distant solar systems with optical telescopes on Earth.

“The main method of identifying planets orbiting distant stars is to measure regular breaks in starlight caused by planets blocking parts of their sun,” said lead author Dr. Barnaby Norris.

“It’s very difficult from the ground, so we had to develop a new way of looking at the stars. We also wanted to find a way to observe these planets directly from Earth, ”he said.

The team’s invention is now being used in one of the largest optical telescopes in the world, the 8.2-meter Subaru telescope in Hawaii operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

“It is really difficult to separate the ‘sparkle’ of a star from the light ingress that planets cause when observed from Earth,” said Dr. Norris. “Most observations of exoplanets come from orbiting telescopes like NASA’s Kepler. With our invention we hope to initiate a renaissance of exoplanet observation from the ground. ”

Novel methods

With the help of the new “photonic wavefront sensor”, astronomers can image exoplanets directly around distant stars from Earth.
Thousands of planets beyond our solar system have been discovered in the past two decades, but only a small handful have been imaged directly from Earth. This severely limits scientific research into these exoplanets.

Creating an image of the planet provides far more information than indirect detection methods such as measuring starlight incursions. Earth-like planets could appear billions of times weaker than their host star. Observing the planet apart from its star is like looking at a 10 cent coin in Sydney as seen from Melbourne.

To solve this problem, the Faculty of Physics’ scientific team developed a “photonic wavefront sensor” that can measure the exact distortion caused by the atmosphere in new ways and correct it thousands of times by the telescope’s adaptive optics systems one second.

“This new sensor combines advanced photonic devices with deep learning and neural network techniques to create an unprecedented type of wavefront sensor for large telescopes,” said Dr. Norris.

“In contrast to conventional wavefront sensors, it can be placed in the same place in the optical instrument where the image is generated. This means that it is sensitive to distortion that is invisible to other wavefront sensors currently used in large observatories, ”he said.

Professor Olivier Guyon of the Subaru Telescope and the University of Arizona is one of the world’s leading experts in adaptive optics. He said: “This is undoubtedly a very innovative approach that is very different from any existing method. It could potentially address several major limitations in current technology.

“We are currently working with the University of Sydney team to test this concept on Subaru in collaboration with SCExAO, one of the most advanced adaptive optics systems in the world.”

Application beyond astronomy

Scientists achieved this remarkable result by building on a novel method to measure (and correct) the wavefront of light that passes through atmospheric turbulence directly in the focal plane of an imaging instrument. This is done using an advanced light converter known as a photonic lantern, which is linked to a neural network inference process.

“This is a radically different approach to existing methods and solves some major limitations in current approaches,” said co-author Jin (Fiona) Wei, a PhD student at the Sydney Astrophotonic Instrumentation Laboratory.

The director of the Sydney Astrophotonic Instrumentation Laboratory at the School of Physics at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Sergio Leon-Saval, said, “While we came to this problem to solve a problem in astronomy, the technique proposed is extremely relevant for a wide range of fields.

“It could be used in optical communications, remote sensing, in vivo imaging, and any other area where accurate wavefronts are received or sent through a turbulent or cloudy medium such as water, blood, or air.”

More information…

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China's Chang'e-5 probe completes second orbital correction – ecns

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China’s lunar probe Chang’e-5 successfully carried out its second orbital correction Wednesday night, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The probe conducted the orbital correction at 10:06 p.m. (Beijing Time), when its two 150N engines were operational for about six seconds.

Prior to the orbital correction, the lunar probe had traveled for roughly 41 hours in orbit, and was about 270,000 km away from Earth. All of the probe’s systems were in good condition.

The CNSA said that the tracking of the probe by ground monitoring and communication centers and stations is going smoothly.

China launched the lunar probe Tuesday to collect and return samples from the moon. It is the country’s first attempt to retrieve samples from an extraterrestrial body.


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This rocks! Western University student spots never-before-seen asteroid – Belleville Intelligencer

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A Western University astronomy student from Chatham, who’s been stargazing since he was a kid, has discovered an asteroid through remote access to a telescope in Spain.

Graduate student Cole Gregg, 22, was using a telescope based at an observatory known as Astrocamp to troll the night sky when he spotted the small, fast-moving, flashing object.

His find — an asteroid estimated to be about 50 to 100 metres long — came after months of seeing nothing notable during his studies. It was, to put it mildly, “unexpected,” Gregg said Wednesday.

“It was quite shocking. You are not really ready for it,” he said. “It takes you by surprise and it was very exciting.”

Using the telescope located on a Spanish mountaintop, Gregg said he observed the asteroid as it sped close to Earth, moving through near-space across Europe.

Gregg’s astronomy professor, Paul Wiegert, called it “a rare treat to be the first person to spot one of these visitors to our planet’s neighbourhood.”

Added Wiegert: “Astronomers around the globe are continuously monitoring near-Earth space for asteroids so this is certainly a feather in Cole’s cap.”


Western astronomy student Cole Gregg monitors the night skies. Gregg discovered the asteroid ALA2xH a week ago.

Gregg spotted the asteroid, given the temporary designation ALA2xH, on Nov. 18. Data collected about the asteroid was sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., to determine whether the observation was unique or not.

From there, it goes on their near-Earth object confirmation page.

Gregg used a website called Itelescope, which allows the public to access telescopes via the internet.

“A lot of people use them for the pretty astrophotography pictures, but they are quite capable of science as well,” Gregg said. “My project is proving that these small telescopes are quite capable of science.”

Despite their efforts, Gregg said they have not spotted the asteroid again “due to weather and unavailability of the telescopes.”

Gregg said he has been fascinated with space since he was camping as a boy and relished looking up at stars in the dark skies. “It sparked my interest.”

After completing his PhD in astronomy, he hopes to continue his research and teach.

“I’m interested in asteroids and comets and how they move, how they exist in the solar system and where they come from,” he said. “And how we can learn from our own solar system to understand . . . other solar systems in the galaxy.”

HRivers@postmedia.com


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This rocks! Western University student spots never-before-seen asteroid – Kingston This Week

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A Western University astronomy student from Chatham, who’s been stargazing since he was a kid, has discovered an asteroid through remote access to a telescope in Spain.

Graduate student Cole Gregg, 22, was using a telescope based at an observatory known as Astrocamp to troll the night sky when he spotted the small, fast-moving, flashing object.

His find — an asteroid estimated to be about 50 to 100 metres long — came after months of seeing nothing notable during his studies. It was, to put it mildly, “unexpected,” Gregg said Wednesday.

“It was quite shocking. You are not really ready for it,” he said. “It takes you by surprise and it was very exciting.”

Using the telescope located on a Spanish mountaintop, Gregg said he observed the asteroid as it sped close to Earth, moving through near-space across Europe.

Gregg’s astronomy professor, Paul Wiegert, called it “a rare treat to be the first person to spot one of these visitors to our planet’s neighbourhood.”

Added Wiegert: “Astronomers around the globe are continuously monitoring near-Earth space for asteroids so this is certainly a feather in Cole’s cap.”


Western astronomy student Cole Gregg monitors the night skies. Gregg discovered the asteroid ALA2xH a week ago.

Gregg spotted the asteroid, given the temporary designation ALA2xH, on Nov. 18. Data collected about the asteroid was sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., to determine whether the observation was unique or not.

From there, it goes on their near-Earth object confirmation page.

Gregg used a website called Itelescope, which allows the public to access telescopes via the internet.

“A lot of people use them for the pretty astrophotography pictures, but they are quite capable of science as well,” Gregg said. “My project is proving that these small telescopes are quite capable of science.”

Despite their efforts, Gregg said they have not spotted the asteroid again “due to weather and unavailability of the telescopes.”

Gregg said he has been fascinated with space since he was camping as a boy and relished looking up at stars in the dark skies. “It sparked my interest.”

After completing his PhD in astronomy, he hopes to continue his research and teach.

“I’m interested in asteroids and comets and how they move, how they exist in the solar system and where they come from,” he said. “And how we can learn from our own solar system to understand . . . other solar systems in the galaxy.”

HRivers@postmedia.com


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