New tool can recognize cosmos from photographs

“It’s a bit like going outside on a dark night and trying to find the constellations.”



Amateur photographers and astronomers will soon be able to navigate the night sky using a computer program developed at the University of Toronto.


The computer program is in its testing phase and helps people identify what they’re looking at when they look up at a star-filled sky, said the project’s supervisor Sam Roweis.


“The idea is that you give (the program) an image of the night sky, and it figures out which stars the image contains,” said Dustin Lang, one of the lead computer programmers working on the project.

The goal of this project is to identify the stars people are looking at, he said.

The program — which was developed in collaboration with astronomers at New York University — can solve images taken with film, digital cameras, amateur telescopes and heavy-duty space telescopes.

People simply upload star-filled photos to the program’s website and the program matches the photos to images in its star database within seconds, said Roweis.

“The database basically looks for patterns in terms of where stars are in relation to each other,” said Roweis.

“It’s a bit like going outside on a dark night and trying to find the constellations,” said Lang.