Do you know what the Earth’s atmosphere is made of? You’d probably remember it’s oxygen, and maybe nitrogen. And with a little help from Google you can easily reach a more precise answer: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% argon gas. However, when it comes to the composition of exo-atmospheres – the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system – the answer is not known. This is a shame, as atmospheres can indicate the nature of planets, and whether they can host life.
As exoplanets are so far away, it has proven extremely difficult to probe their atmospheres. Research suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) may be our best bet to explore them – but only if we can show that these algorithms think in reliable, scientific ways, rather than cheating the system. Now our new paper, published in the Astrophysical Journal, has provided reassuring insight into their mysterious logic.
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