Artificial intelligence helps in search into heart of galaxies

An astrophysics student at the Australian National University has turned to artificial intelligence to help her to see into the hearts of galaxies.

Elise Hampton taught her computer how to analyse galaxies using about 4,000 spectra that had been analysed previously by astrophysicists to single out the most turbulent and messy of thousands of galaxies – the ones she is studying.

“I love artificial intelligence. It was actually a very simple program to write, once I learnt how,” said Hampton, who is studying at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

“The program took eight minutes to analyse 300,000 data points from 1,188 galaxies. For one person to do it would have taken years.”

Hampton is studying galaxies with brightly glowing centres powered by black holes that cause huge galactic winds.

“We believe these winds blow so much material out of the galaxies that they eventually starve themselves to death,” she said.

Galactic winds can also trigger the formation of new stars.

Hampton said she was inspired by neural networks in writing her AI program. Artificial Neural Networks are a family of computer programs inspired by the brain that work as an interconnected set of individual processors, similar to neurons.

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