Using AI/ML to Discover Comets

April 22, 2022

SESDA staff has supported operations of SOHO’s Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) for over 25 years. One of the primary objectives of this instrument is to image the solar corona to study phenomena such as Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s). A remarkable and unintended by-product of LASCO has been the discovery of over 4000 sungrazing comets through NASA’s Sungrazer Citizen Science Program conducted jointly with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). In 2022, this program partnered with NASA’s Open-Source Science Initiative in a data challenge to develop artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) tools to automate the identification and tracking of faint comets that approach the Sun. This challenge has already reaped benefits by enabling the discovery of two previously undetected comets from 2005 and 2016.

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