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Scientists Develop a New Generation of Imaging Tools

A team of astrophysicists, engineers and computer scientists from the School of Informatics, School of Engineering and the EPCC are spearheading research on imaging techniques which will potentially not only unlock secrets from the far reaches of the universe, but also impact modern medicine.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University and University College London are joining forces on the project, which will help create ultra-high resolution images of the universe and of the human brain as part of a £2 million project funded by UK Research Councils.

High resolution

The project will use a new mathematical theory, known as compressive sampling, to develop new imaging tools.

The theory provides a way to recover complex images from a small amount of data, which was previously thought impossible.

The research will enable scientists to reconstruct ultra-high resolution images using data from radio telescopes, such as the flagship Square Kilometer Array (SKA) telescope, which is due to come online in 2023.

This telescope will have an unprecedented number of antennae extending over both Africa and Australia.

It should support the search for extraterrestrial life, further probe Einstein’s theory of gravitation, and reveal mysteries of the dawn of the universe.

Novel applications

The project will investigate ways to redesign telescope array configurations, so that each data point gathers the optimum amount of information.

Novel powerful algorithms run by supercomputers will also be designed and applied to reconstruct ultra-high resolution images of the sky.

The new techniques may also be used in other fields of science and technology. They will enable faster magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans and could help create new diagnostic methodologies for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Using big data

State-of-the-art computing techniques and architectures will ensure the algorithms developed will run on the world’s largest super-computers and will scale to the Big Data regime of radio telescopes such the SKA. Well-engineered software embodying these algorithms will be a critical research output and will be made openly available to the radio astronomy community.

Radio astronomical imaging urgently needs to be re-invented in this ultra-precision and Big Data context, where the recent theory of compressive sampling has huge potential.”

Dr Yves WiauxHonorary Fellow at the the School of Informatics and Associate Professor at Heriot-Watt University

The project awarded comes in the context of a larger initiative of the investigators for ‘compressive imaging in astronomy and medicine’. The team has worldwide recognized expertise in the field.