Topcoder hosted a Marathon Match Challenge that attracted top Data Scientists in the community. The challenge resulted in seven quality solutions with different AI/Ml approaches for image processing and comet detection. The top two challenge winners both have over a decade of experience in software engineering, and the third place winner has a PhD and is working in a field that has similar detection needs.
Topcoder also developed a tool to compare the output files of several algorithms for cross-checking “false positives” that may actually be previously unidentified comets, and the algorithms output images to aid human verification.
NASA was thrilled with the results. They love that Topcoder’s community used different approaches to identify possible comets. Through the use of the crowd-crafted algorithms, two previously unidentified comets were discovered, including a difficult-to-detect non-group comet! They found that some solutions were also sensitive to other solar outflows, which may be useful in other heliospheric domains.
The solutions Topcoder developed modernize and improve NASA’S older image processing tool. While comets were the use case specific to this challenge, NASA has expressed interest in expanding upon this technology for other celestial object identification. These algorithms will be helpful in detecting comets that are difficult to detect by humans, adding a powerful tool to NASA’s study of our solar system and beyond.