AI finds possible gravitational lens points

When a galaxy is hidden behind another galaxy, we can sometimes see the hidden one around the front system. This phenomenon is called a gravitational lens, because it emerges from Einstein’s general relativity theory which says that mass can bend light. Astronomers search for gravitational lenses because they help in the research of dark matter. AI has been trained to find possible gravitational lenses from vast databases of telescopic images. They found 761 possible candidates and those were doubled checked by human experts to reduce it to 56 reliable candidates. They are very confident of getting to 100 confirmed galaxy lens from a full search of the Kilo Degree Survey and might optimistically reach 2400 galaxy lens.

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society – Finding strong gravitational lenses in the Kilo Degree Survey with Convolutional Neural Networks


The volume of data that will be produced by new-generation surveys requires automatic classification methods to select and analyse sources. Indeed, this is the case for the search for strong gravitational lenses, where the population of the detectable lensed sources is only a very small fraction of the full source population. We apply for the first time a morphological classification method based on a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) for recognizing strong gravitational lenses in 255 deg2 of the Kilo Degree Survey (KiDS), one of the current-generation optical wide surveys. The CNN is currently optimized to recognize lenses with Einstein radii ≳1.4 arcsec, about twice the r-band seeing in KiDS. In a sample of 21 789 colour–magnitude selected luminous red galaxies (LRGs), of which three are known lenses, the CNN retrieves 761 strong-lens candidates and correctly classifies two out of three of the known lenses. The misclassified lens has an Einstein radius below the range on which the algorithm is trained. We down-select the most reliable 56 candidates by a joint visual inspection. This final sample is presented and discussed. A conservative estimate based on our results shows that with our proposed method it should be possible to find ∼100 massive LRG-galaxy lenses at z ≲ 0.4 in KiDS when completed. In the most optimistic scenario, this number can grow considerably (to maximally ∼2400 lenses), when widening the color–magnitude selection and training the CNN to recognize smaller image-separation lens systems.