AI Algorithm Hunts Down 27,000 New Asteroids

May 7, 2024

Astronomers used to have just one option to find the more than 1 million asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They used high-powered telescopes. They logged shiny objects one by one. But artificial intelligence (AI) is changing that.    

Scientists have linked an AI algorithm to Google Cloud storage. It looks at old pictures of the night sky. It can see and count many shiny objects that humans can’t. It has found over 27,000 new asteroids. 

“This is really a job for AI,” Ed Lu said during a recent online chat. Lu is executive director of the Asteroid Institute. He is also the co-founder of the nonprofit B612 Foundation. It issued the findings. 

Over the past 200 years, scientists using telescopes had already found more than 1.3 million asteroids. These are the small, rocky objects that orbit the sun. 

Traditionally, astronomers find new asteroids by looking at many pictures of the skies taken each night by telescopes. They look for what has changed. Planets, stars, and galaxies don’t move. Asteroids do. They can be seen as tiny, bright specks of light. They are different from one image to the next. The scientists catalog them and monitor their orbits to track their paths.

The 27,000 new asteroids found by the algorithm far outnumbered those discovered by human sight methods last year. None of the newfound asteroids appear to threaten Earth, scientists said. But the algorithm could help find an asteroid that poses a danger to our planet in the future.     

Reflect: How do you think artificial intelligence will change your life over the next decade?

Conceptual art of asteroid courtesy NASA JPL CalTech on Wikimedia Commons.

Which of the following tools did astronomers use to discover 27,000 previously unknown asteroids? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. telescopes
b. pictures of the night sky
c. artificial intelligence
d. all of the above
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

News brought to you by The Juice

Start a free trial today