AI Can Help Researchers Study Cosmic Explosions. Here’s How

AI is making research with cosmic activity more and more possible. Have you heard of Type Ia supernovae? These are powerful explosions of stars that help astronomers measure distances across this universe. So, “Riddler” is a new tool researchers made so they can understand Type Ia supernovae better. It uses:

Machine Learning: “Riddler” uses machine learning to study the light spectra (the range of colours emitted by the explosion).

Fitting Models: It fits these spectra to models based on real supernova data, helping scientists understand the explosion mechanics.

Efficiency: It does this more efficiently and accurately than older methods.

What Are Supernovae and Why Do They Matter?

When referring to these supernovae, these are explosive events that are known as the end of a star’s life cycle, with white dwarfs specifically. These compact stars, roughly the mass of our Sun but the size of Earth, occasionally undergo catastrophic explosions.

These explosions release heavy elements like calcium and iron, essential for life, into the universe. Even though this is important, the mystery in how these explosions happen exactly, continues.

Dr. Mark Magee from the University of Warwick’s Department of Physics, where Riddler was created explains, “When investigating supernovae, we analyse their spectra. Spectra show the intensity of light over different wavelengths, which is impacted by the elements created in the supernova. Each element interacts with light at unique wavelengths and therefore leaves a unique signature on the spectra.”

How AI Betters Traditional Supernova Research

Traditional methods of analysing supernovae involve creating detailed models that compare observed data with theoretical predictions. This process is a lot of work as it is time-consuming, with each model taking between 10 and 90 minutes to generate. Researchers often need to compare hundreds or even thousands of these models to understand a single supernova event fully.

Dr. Magee continues, “Our new research will move away from this lengthy process. We will train machine learning algorithms on what different types of explosions look like and use these to generate models much more quickly.

“In a similar way to how we can use AI to generate new artwork or text, now we’ll be able to generate simulations of supernovae. This means we’ll be able to generate thousands of models in less than a second, which will be a huge boost to supernova research.”

The use of AI in supernova research allows scientists to explore the elements released by supernovae in greater detail. Different types of supernovae produce varying amounts of specific elements, offering clues about the nature of the explosion and the type of white dwarf involved.

Dr. Magee says, “Exploring the elements released by supernovae is a crucial step in determining the type of explosion that occurred. We can then relate the properties of the explosion back to the properties of the supernova host galaxies and establish a direct link between how the explosion happened and the type of white dwarf that exploded.”

Will There Be More Research?

More studies will expand to include a larger range of explosions and supernova types, so that they can directly link the explosion characteristics with the properties of their host galaxies. Dr. Thomas Killestein from the University of Turku, who is also involved in the research, spoke on the possible success from making and using these advancements:

“With modern surveys, we finally have datasets of the size and quality to tackle some of the key remaining questions in supernova science: how exactly they explode. Machine learning approaches like this enable studies of larger numbers of supernovae, in greater detail, and with more consistency than previous approaches.”

So, The Main Things This Helps

To sum up how this is good for space tech and research:

Speed and Efficiency: AI dramatically reduces the time needed to generate supernova models, from hours to literal seconds.

Accuracy: Better model precision helps identify the true nature of supernova explosions.

In-Depth Analysis: The ability to quickly generate and compare thousands of models opens up new avenues for understanding the complex dynamics of supernovae.