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Workshop: NeurIPS 2023 Workshop: Machine Learning and the Physical Sciences

Discovering Galaxy Features via Dataset Distillation

Haowen Guan · Xuan Zhao · Zishi Wang · Zhiyang Li · Julia Kempe


In many applications, Neural Nets (NNs) have classification performance on par or even exceeding human capacity. Moreover, it is likely that NNs leverage underlying features that might differ from those humans perceive to classify. Can we reverse-engineer" pertinent features to enhance our scientific understanding? Here, we apply this idea to the notoriously difficult task of galaxy classification: NNs have reached high performance for this task, but what does a neural net (NN)see" when it classifies galaxies? Are there morphological features that the human eye might overlook that could help with the this task and provide new insights? Can we visualize tracers of early evolution, or additionally incorporated spectral data? We present a novel way to summarize and visualize galaxy morphology through the lens of neural networks, leveraging Dataset Distillation, a recent deep-learning methodology with the primary objective to distill knowledge from a large dataset and condense it into a compact synthetic dataset, such that a model trained on this synthetic dataset achieves performance comparable to a model trained on the full dataset. We curate a class-balanced, medium-size high-confidence version of the Galaxy Zoo 2 dataset, and proceed with dataset distillation from our accurate NN-classifier to create synthesized prototypical images of galaxy morphological features, demonstrating its effectiveness. Of independent interest, we introduce a self-adaptive version of the state-of-the-art Matching Trajectories algorithm to automate the distillation process, and show enhanced performance on computer vision benchmarks.

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