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WVU engineers to develop AI based framework to gather data about the history of the universe

The Greenbank Observatory

The Green Bank Observatory located in Greenbank, West Virginia, is an integral data collection tool for Schmid and Bourlai. (Green Bank Observatory)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—

Two engineers at West Virginia University are using artificial intelligence in their pursuit to help answer some of the most daunting questions about the history of the universe.

How was it created? How did it develop over time?

According to Natalia Schmid and Thirimachos Bourlai, professors in the  Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in the Statler College, answering these questions are critical in predicting the future of the universe.

“Without understanding our past and the origin of the universe, we will not be able to analyze what to expect in the future,” Bourlai said.

By developing a new AI based framework for the detection of radio frequency interference (RFI)—the data received by a telescope—the researchers will use a machine learning approach to minimize the probability of detection errors in radio astronomy signals.  

“Any electric, electronic equipment, including our cellphones causes a radio interfering signal, or terrestrial RFI,” Schmid said. “Astronomical signals must be separated from RFI, which is an increasing problem for observatories on every location on earth.”  

The researchers explained that raw radio astronomy data can be extremely noisy and RFI contaminated, making it difficult to detect weak astronomical signals.

“Improved RFI characterization will allow us to increase the sensitivity limit of every radio telescope leading to a substantial increase in the number of detected faint transient signals,” Schmid said. “In addition to the detection of transients, real time RFI detection and mitigation will speed up pulsar search and result in high-quality mapping of the universe.”

Schmid explained that with the aid of millisecond pulsars, the research team will be able to detect gravitational waves, analyze their nature and ultimately learn more about black holes.

“The signals are probes of the universe,” Schmid said. “We can learn more about the history of the universe, about how it was created, or in other words, about its entire past.”

On April 17, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin announced $100,000 in funding over the period of one year to Schmid and Bourlai through the NASA Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.  

“We will not be able to map the entire universe, but we will contribute our bit to this research,” Schmid said.

Schmid and Bourlai will work alongside two WVU students to develop the AI based framework.


-WVU-

au/om/5/20/20

Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

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