Meet BTSbot, the AI Robot That Can Find Supernovas

Meet BTSbot, the AI Robot That Can Find Supernovas

News by Roberto Orosa
Published: October 26, 2023

Recently discovered uses for AI, like how it may detect depression levels or create open-world games, have expanded the world's understanding of its superior capabilities. 

Today, people believe it may be the technology that can help scientists discover and confirm new supernovas in outer space. 

A group of researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois led by scientist Adam Miller developed a new AI system called the "Bright Transient Survey Bot," or "BTSbot."

According to Miller, this robot was employed for the first time ever to locate, identify, and categorize a supernova.

How Does the BTSbot Work?

Over the past six years, researchers have dedicated more than 2,000 hours to analyzing telescope data in their quest to pinpoint and classify potential supernovae.

BTSbot, combining robots and AI algorithms, not only observed and recognized a supernova, but also communicated with another telescope to confirm the discovery.

This breakthrough technology has the potential to assume many of the tasks currently performed by humans in the search for and categorization of supernovae.

By automating these tasks, scientists can allocate their time to conducting more in-depth analyses of the supernovas and the mysteries behind their formation.

In the process of verifying a supernova, scientists must analyze its spectrum, which displays the scattered light from the explosion, revealing the elements present during the event.

"Adding BTSbot to our workflow will eliminate the need for us to spend time inspecting these candidates," Christoffer Fremling, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) who helped develop the BTSbot, said in a statement.

Why Are Supernovas Important?

Studying supernovas holds significant scientific value as it offers insights into the universe's origins and evolution. For instance, NASA emphasizes that supernovas have greatly expanded our understanding of stellar behaviors and chemical processes.

According to Miller, the BTSbot empowers researchers to "evaluate their observations and formulate fresh hypotheses" to discover the reasons behind supernova explosions.

“The beauty of it is that, once everything is turned on and working properly, we don’t actually do anything,” Nabeel Rehemtulla, who co-led the team in its research, shared.

“We go to sleep at night, and, in the morning, we see that BTSbot, and these other AIs, unwaveringly do their jobs," concluded Nabeel Rehemtulla, who co-led the team in its research.

Edited by Nikola Djuric

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