Don Smith: What Can Globular Clusters Tell Us about the Universe?
TriStar Astronomy Conference Don Smith, Guilford College "What Can Globular Clusters Tell Us about the Universe?" The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute's Astronomical Photographic Data Archive (PARI's APDA) contains over two hundred thousand glass plate photographs of the sky. In particular, there are several thousand plates from the University of Michigan's CTIO survey. Instead of focusing the stellar light to points, these plates had a prism in the optical path that smears the stars' light into rainbow-like spectra. From these spectra, the type of star can be identified through the presence (or absence) of atomic energy lines. In total, these plates contain hundreds of thousands of stars that have not been classified - a daunting prospect for any individual. PARI has established a crowd-sourcing web site ( that offers anyone the opportunity to try their hand at classifying a small sample of these stars. However, in principle, an artificial neural network could be trained to carry out the classification en masse. I will describe my ongoing project to process these glass plates: to extract stellar spectra from scanned, digitized versions of the images and to train an artificial neural network to classify the extracted spectra. The results of this project could be interesting from an astronomical point of view, extending our knowledge of the demographics of nearby stellar populations, as well as from an artificial intelligence standpoint, providing a way to compare the results of artificial and biological neural networks' efforts to solve the same task.
Guilford Technical Community College
3/1/2014 2:30:00 PM

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