Thursday, May 17, 2018

How Deep Learning Is Bringing Elusive, Light-Bending Gravitational Lenses Into Focus

Gravitational lenses have long been one of astronomy’s white whales, perplexing those who have devoted themselves to finding and studying them. But by applying deep learning and computer vision to the abundant data generated by today’s powerful telescopes, scientists are on the verge of being able to use hundreds of thousands of gravitational lenses to expand our understanding of the universe.

Gravitational lenses occur when a galaxy, or a cluster of galaxies, blocks the view of another galaxy “behind” it, and the gravity of the first causes the light from the second to bend. This effectively makes the first galaxy a sort of magnifying glass for observing the second.