Scientists turn to AI and use lenses to find free-floating planetary masses


This figure shows that only planets like Jupiter are free to float in the darkness of the universe without a parent star. CLEoPATRA mission scientists want to improve the mass estimation of such planets discovered by microlenses.Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Exoplanet hunters have discovered thousands of planets, most of which orbit near their host stars, but are so-called alien planets that float freely in the galaxy and are not bound by stars. A relatively small number of alien worlds have been detected. Many astronomers believe that these planets are more common than we know, but that our planetary discovery technology has not yet led to the task of finding them.

Most exoplanets discovered so far have been discovered to cause a slight dip in the observed light of the host star as it passes through the circumstellar disc from our point of view. These events are called transits.

NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope uses the powerful technology available in the wide-field telescope to conduct research to discover more exoplanets.The stars of our Milky Way galaxy move, and the alignment of opportunities can help us find injustice planet.. This can brighten the stars if the rogue planets are exactly aligned with the distant stars. During such events, the gravity of the planet acts as a lens that temporarily magnifies the light of the stars in the background. The Romans may find a rogue planet through this technology, Gravitational microlensing method, Has one drawback. That is, the distance to the lens planet is not well known.

Goddard scientist Dr. Richard K. Barry is developing a mission concept called the Simultaneous Parallax and Autonomous Parallax Assay (CLEoPATRA) to take advantage of the parallax effect to calculate these distances. Parallax is a clear shift in the position of the foreground object as seen by observers at slightly different locations. Our brains utilize a slightly different perspective of our eyes, so we can also see depth. 19th-century astronomers used the same effect to first establish the distance to a nearby star, and in a photo taken when the Earth was on the other side of the orbit, where was it relative to the background star? I measured how it shifted.

The behavior is slightly different for microlenses, where the apparent placement of planets and stars in the distant background is highly dependent on the observer’s position. In this case, two well-separated observers, each with an accurate clock, witness the same microlens event at slightly different times. NS Time dilation Between the two detections, scientists can determine the distance of the planet.

To maximize the parallax effect, CLEoPATRA will embark on a mission to Mars, now scheduled for late 2025, starting at about the same time as Rome. This puts it in its own orbit around the Sun, which effectively measures the microlens parallax signal and fills in this missing information.

The CLEoPATRA concept also supports the PRIme-focus Infrared Microlensing Experiment (PRIME), a ground-based telescope currently equipped with cameras using four detectors developed by the Roman mission. The mass estimation of microlens planets detected by both Roman and Prime is greatly improved by the simultaneous parallax observations provided by CLEoPATRA.

This animation demonstrates the concept of gravitational microlensing by a rogue planet, a planet that does not orbit the stars. If the rogue planet appears to pass almost in front of the source star in the background, the rays of the source star will bend due to the distorted space-time around the planet in the foreground.Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CI Lab

“Cleopatra will be far from the main observatory, which is either Rome or a telescope on Earth,” Barry said. “The parallax signal will allow us to calculate very accurate masses for these objects, which should increase our scientific benefits.”

Dr. Goddard’s research assistant, Stella Ishitani Silva. Students at the Catholic University of Washington said understanding these free-floating planets would help fill the gap in our knowledge of how planets are formed.

“We’re trying to find multiple rogue planets and get information about their masses, so we can understand what’s common and what’s not,” said Silva Ishitani. .. “Obtaining mass is important for understanding the development of their planet.”

To efficiently find these planets, CLEoPATRA, which completed a mission planning laboratory study at the Wallops Flight Facility in early August, will use artificial intelligence. Postdoctoral fellow Dr. Greg Olmschenk, who works with Barry, has developed an AI called RApid Machine learnEd Triage (RAMjET) for the mission.

“I use a certain kind of artificial intelligence called neural networks,” says Olmschenk. “This is a kind of artificial intelligence that you learn through examples, so you’ll learn how to recognize patterns by giving a lot of examples of what you want to find and what you want to exclude. I try to find what I want to destroy. “

Ultimately, the AI ​​learns what it needs to identify and sends back only the important information. In filtering this information, RAMjET helps CLEoPATRA overcome very limited data transfer rates. CLEoPATRA needs to monitor millions of people Performer There is no way to send all that data to Earth every hour or so. Therefore, the spacecraft must analyze the onboard data and return only the measurements of the source that it detected as a microlens event.

“CLEoPATRA allows us to estimate the masses of many of the new planets detected by Roman and PRIME with high accuracy,” says Barry. “And it may allow us to capture or estimate the actual mass of rogue planets for the first time-never done before. It’s so cool and so exciting. Really, it’s It’s a new golden age of astronomy, and I’m very excited. ”

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