Scientists have used artificial intelligence to spot small, newly formed craters on Mars for the first time.

Why it matters: This use of AI could cut down on the time scientists spend combing through images of the Red Planet's surface taken by orbiters to find interesting features worthy of study.

The state of play: The AI tool, operating on a supercomputer cluster at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, analyzed about 112,000 images taken by one of the cameras aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

  • The tool found a group of craters in the Noctis Fossae area of Mars, and on Aug. 26, scientists using another camera aboard the MRO confirmed the finding.
  • Researchers behind the tool have now submitted more possible crater candidates for MRO follow-up.

What's next: NASA hopes to one day repurpose the tool for use on board spacecraft heading to deep space destinations like Mars in order to cut down on the time needed to analyze their findings.

  • Instead of scientists back on Earth going through every image beamed home from distant space, the tool could help prioritize exactly what researchers want to see in the first place.
  • Scientists also hope the tool can give them a more complete picture of meteor impacts on Mars in general.
  • "There are likely many more impacts that we haven't found yet," Ingrid Daubar, a JPL scientist who helped develop the tool, said in a statement. "This advance shows you just how much you can do with veteran missions like MRO using modern analysis techniques."

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Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 20, 2020 - Science

NASA tags an asteroid

A global map of Bennu. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched the surface of an asteroid Tuesday in a bid to collect a sample from the space rock that will one day be returned to Earth.

Why it matters: Scientist are hoping to study a sample from the asteroid, named Bennu, to piece together more about the solar system's evolution. Asteroids are thought to be leftovers from the formation of planets billions of years ago.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Ex-FDA chief: Pence campaigning after COVID exposure puts others at risk — Mark Meadows: "We are not going to control the pandemic"— COVID-19 looms over White House Halloween celebrations.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week — Fauci says maybe we should mandate masks if people don't wear themU.S. reports over 80,000 new cases for second consecutive day.
  3. World: Italy tightens restrictions Spain declares new state of emergency.

Amy Coney Barrett's immediate impact

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

In her first week on the job, Amy Coney Barrett may be deciding which votes to count in the presidential election. By her third week, she’ll be deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Where it stands: The Senate votes on Barrett’s nomination tomorrow. If she’s confirmed, Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to swear her in at the Supreme Court within hours, an administration official tells Axios.