AI identified more than 100,000 new craters on the Moon

Moltke crater imaged from Apollo 10

According to a new study published in journal Nature Communications, our only natural satellite Moon has way more craters than we thought.

By using data gathered by Chinese lunar orbiters, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has detected more than 100,000 new lunar craters in the mid and low latitude regions.

Developing an AI to identify and locate impact craters on lunar surface has been a tough job, because of many shapes these craters can take. They are of different ages and all can not be round. Due to this their defining properties have eroded over the long time periods.

Before this scientists used to identify and locate lunar craters manually by studying images and then transferring them to moon globes. This new AI will speed up the crater identification process substantially.

As per research head Chen Yang (associate professor of Earth sciences at Jilin University, China)- this is the largest lunar crater database for the mid and low latitude lunar regions.

Formed during the meteor strikes, these impact craters cover majority of lunar surface, and can be considered as fossils on moon’s surface which record our Solar System’s history.

These fossils are of different sizes and shapes and can erode and overlap in time, making the identification and dating process difficult and time taking. Also, the process is subjective which leads to inconsistencies within existing databases.

Research scientists approached these issues with Artificial Intelligence. They fed the AI with previously detected impact craters and also trained it to identify the new craters.

AI then used data from Chinese Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 lunar orbiters, and identified 109,956 new impact craters on the lunar surface.

Significant number of these new impact craters are placed in size of small to medium category, they range from one to hundred kilometres in diameter.

AI also detected already eroded larger and irregular shaped impact craters, with some of them ranging up to five hundred and fifty kilometres in diameter.

AI recorded the location of each crater it identified and placed each into a predefined lunar geological era based on how much the impact crater had eroded.

The research team will be using data from recently launched Chang’e 5 lander to further fine tune their crater spotting AI. They also hope to use their AI on other objects/bodies of our Solar System.

for more information: Lunar impact crater identification and age estimation with Chang’E data by deep and transfer learning

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