Today It’s Easier To Find Habitable Planets

For years, the search for habitable planets has gone on. However, there is often little to no genuine progress. one such change to that, though, has come from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), as well as the Paris Observatory. Working alongside NVIDIA, they have taken the move to try and ramp up the search for new planets which would be habitable.

This comes after a new demonstration of the Subaru Telescope, the 8.2-meter telescope owned by the NAOJ. Also, they are using development with astronomers from the KAUST Extreme Computing Research Center to develop new Extreme-AO algorithms. These will help to make the search for habitable planets much easier and should help to put a dent in what has been a huge barrier in the path to finding a potential new home in the centuries to come.

According to Dr. Hatem Ltaief, the Senior Research Scientist at ECRC: “Imaging exoplanets with large ground-based telescopes is very challenging due to the star/planet contrast and blurring induced by Earth’s atmosphere. Very high-performance adaptive optics—sometimes referred to as ‘Extreme-AO’—are required,”

The Subaru Telescope sits 14,000 feet above sea level at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Credit: Subaru Telescope, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

The aim is to create more powerful control algorithms, with the aim being to help use high-powered NVIDIA GPU systems to help deliver continuous optimization of the system. This would even help to create a system that can anticipate quickly changing disturbances caused by the atmosphere of the Earth itself.

A step in the right direction

Professor Damien Gratadour, an astronomer at Paris Observatory, noted that “This fantastic new technology is already being used to take a closer look at exoplanets orbiting around nearby stars. With the larger 25-40 meter telescopes astronomers are currently building, new Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars will be imaged and their atmospheric composition will be measured to look for signs of life such as oxygen, water or methane,”

By using the new Singular Value Decomposition (SVD) algorithms, there can be better control provided to account for atmospheric conditions. Indeed, the research itself was highly regarded, winning awards at the Platform for Advanced Scientific Computing Conference in Basel in 2018. Indeed, it’s already being used on the Subaru Telescope, located at 14,000ft, over in Hawaii.

While some get frustrated at stories like this, it’s obviously very cool. The world does need to act faster on saving our own planet, what with the whole 12-year warning recently from the IPCC. However, it’s important that we continue to develop aspects of science like this. Sadly, if humanity continues to show this same ravenous appetite for all things it shouldn’t touch, we might need a new planet one day.

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