Tech UPTechnologyAn AI discovers 11 dangerous new asteroids

An AI discovers 11 dangerous new asteroids

There are plenty of rocks in our nearby planetary system and while it is true that a large portion of them will never pose a danger to our planet, others inevitably will, and at some point the Earth will be on a fast track with a space rock. That is why it is so important to have this information to have enough time to be able to find an adequate strategy to prevent the impact.

An artificial neural network developed by scientists at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) has managed to identify up to 11 new asteroids considered dangerous that could collide with our planet after 2131. The discovery, which has been published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, is not trivial, since they have a sufficient mass to cause a disaster such as hundreds of nuclear weapons in the event of an impact.

The neural network called HOI (Dangerous Object Identifier) – which means “hello” in Dutch – is capable of predicting whether an asteroid, no matter how far away it is today, is in the process of colliding with our planet.

Amazing results

The researchers incorporated the orbits of the Sun and its planets in the next 10,000 years . They then reversed the arrow of time to see what was happening on that regressive time path, including asteroids identified so far and their orbital distributions.

The asteroid library served as training material for the neural network. Thus, with the newly created asteroid library, the neural network analyzed the trajectories of 2,000 asteroids already identified by NASA to find out if there were chances that, at some point in our close history, they could collide with our planet.

“If you rewind the clock, you will see known asteroids land on Earth again. In this way, you can make a library of the orbits of asteroids that landed on Earth,” explains Simon Portegies Zwart, co-author of the work.

The artificial intelligence system selected 11 asteroids not previously identified by NASA as dangerous, they were not listed as potential concerns. Yet each of them is over 100 meters in diameter, enough mass to transform into a catastrophic explosive force. And they could hit Earth sooner or later. Although the probability that these asteroids will hit the Earth is low or nil, these asteroids, between the years 2131 and 2923, will come more than ten times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

Why had these asteroids not been located before?

The fact that these asteroids have not previously been identified as potentially dangerous is because the orbit of these asteroids is very chaotic. “As a result, they are not located by the current software of space organizations, which is based on probability calculations that use expensive brute force simulations,” explains the expert.

In the future, scientists would like to improve their system to have the option of anticipating risky flybys with significantly more prominent precision . “Currently we realize that our technique works, however, we would like to further investigate with a better neural network and with more information. The difficult part is that small interruptions in the orbit calculations can lead to major changes in the conclusions “, clarifies Portegies Zwart.

Referencia: John D. Hefele et al. Identifying Earth-impacting asteroids using an artificial neural network, Astronomy & Astrophysics (2020). DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201935983

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