Every day thousands of amateur astronomers post high-quality images of stars online. Now those images are being sorted and labeled by a bot who can recognize stars just by looking at images of them.

Recently the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, UK, held an astronomical photography contest, and museum researcher Fiona Romeo needed a way to identify quickly what the stars were in each photograph submitted. Eventually a group of university researchers created a robot for her who can look at any photograph of a group of stars and figure out where they are, simply by using geometry. The robot exists entirely in software, and lives in the museum's Flickr photo storage account online.

Above, you can see Romeo at Webstock in New Zealand earlier this month explaining to me how the robot works. What I find intriguing about this idea is that basically you have a robot doing the job that scientists once did - looking at the night sky and identifying what it sees there. It may not be the kind of robot who walks around, but it nevertheless does a very human task. And now Romeo has a robot colleague.


You can interact with the robot too - just upload a photo of the night skies to the Royal Observatory's ongoing astronomical photography contest, and the bot will automatically label your photographs with the correct information (as long as the photos are of stars!).

Learn more about the Royal Observatory and their astronomical photography contest.