A satellite using intelligent software has alerted boffins that a volcano in the Antarctic is erupting. Normally if Mt Erebus erupts, the only witnesses would be the penguins who don’t tend to talk about it and scientists wouldn’t be aware of it for months.
However, since they jacked in the software into NASA’s Earth Observing-1 spacecraft that can make its own scientific observations without being asked, scientists have snapped the event.
The software was developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it scanned pictures an instrument highly sensitive to heat released from molten lava.
After it detected heat from the lava lake at the summit of the volcano and reprogrammed the satellite’s camera to take more pictures.
According to the boffins in charge of the project, the experiment is a step towards a thinking spacecraft. In fact the software part of the project was named Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment. You can read more about the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment here.