The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS): Operations 2019-2022

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is a set of 12 identical telescopes situated at Paranal Observatory in Chile - one of the best astronomical sites in the world. NGTS monitors tens of thousands of bright stars at once in order to search for planets orbiting other worlds (exoplaents). These exoplanets are discovered by looking for small dips in the light from the star as the exoplanet passes in front of the star (called "transits"). The telescopes have been operational since 2016, and already have discovered numerous transiting exoplanets, including small exoplanets not previously detectable from ground-based telescopes.

In this proposal we request STFC funding to continue to operate the NGTS telescopes over the 2019-2022 period. This is a very exciting period to operate NGTS, as a new NASA spacecraft named "TESS" has been launched as will soon start surveying almost the entire sky for transiting exoplanets. TESS data will be publicly available, and can be used to find transiting exoplanet candidates that can then be confirmed and further characterised by NGTS. This will allow NGTS to discover planets around very bright stars and in longer period orbits than was previously possible. In addition to this, we will also be able to find young planets by conducting a new survey of open clusters.

NGTS data will also be useful for other research fields, such as the flaring events from star and the monitoring of planetary debris around white dwarfs.

Planned Impact

NGTS is a world leader in high precision photometry from CCD cameras. In order to achieve this we have worked closely with Andor Technology plc, the Belfast-based company that supplies the cameras for NGTS. Our testing and operation of Andor's cameras have led to significant improvements in the hardware and software of these cameras, and we forecast this to continue over the 2019-2022 period. In addition, we have began plans to proto-type a new infrared sensor with the NGTS set-up from the company Raptor Photonics, an off-shoot of Andor based in Belfast. This new sensor uses different technology from the previous CCD technology, and we will be one of the first users of the device requiring high precision measurement in low light level environments.

NGTS planet discoveries have been announced not only to the scientific community, but to the public at large via very successful press releases. An example of this was NGTS-1b, dubbed "the Monster Planet", that was picked up by the media in the UK and internationally in October last year.

The operation of NGTS, and the resulting exoplanet discoveries, help promote interest and awareness of astronomy and science in general. We maximise this impact by a series of school visits and public talks, engaging with over 3000 school students last year alone.

Publications

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Chaushev Alexander (2019) Classifying exoplanet candidates with convolutional neural networks: application to the Next Generation Transit Survey in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Costes J (2019) NGTS-8b and NGTS-9b: two non-inflated hot-Jupiters in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Costes Jean C. (2020) NGTS-8b and NGTS-9b: two non-inflated hot Jupiters in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Eigmüller P (2019) NGTS-5b: a highly inflated planet offering insights into the sub-Jovian desert in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Gill S (2019) NGTS and WASP photometric recovery of a single-transit candidate from TESS in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Gill S (2019) NGTS and WASP photometric recovery of a single-transit candidate from TESS in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Gill S (2019) NGTS and WASP photometric recovery of a single-transit candidate from TESS in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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Gill Samuel (2020) NGTS and WASP photometric recovery of a single-transit candidate from TESS in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description STFC ERF - 2019 and 2020
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Title NGTS database at ESO Archive 
Description Sky survey data from the STFC-funded NGTS project, where time-series photometric measurements have been made for millions of stars in the search for new exoplanets. The data are released publicly through the ESO data archive. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Academic impacts for the International astronomical community. Allowing new exoplanets to be found and stellar variability to be investigated. 
URL http://archive.eso.org/cms/eso-archive-news/first-data-release-by-the-next-generation-transit-survey...
 
Description NGTS Consortium 
Organisation Andor Technology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are leading the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), which is a project aiming to discover small planets around bright stars using an array of robotic telescopes at the ESO Paranal site in Chile. We initiated the project with an institutional investment of £300k, and have been joined by 5 partner institutes all making comparable financial investments. At Warwick we have purchased key components of the facility (including CCD cameras and telescope mounts), led site negotiations with ESO, and we are leading the development of the observatory control and data analysis software. In the operational phase of the project, with support from STFC, we will carrying out the data analysis and lead the search for new planets in NGTS data.
Collaborator Contribution Geneva - have purchased key equipment and led the mechanical and optical design of the telescope array. DLR - have purchased CCD cameras and contributed to the development of data analysis software. Leicester - have purchased CCD cameras and computing hardware and led the calibration of the CCD cameras. Cavendish - have purchased key equipment and provided staff support for the installation of the facility in Chile. Belfast - developed a prototype instrument for La Palma that demonstrated the scientific feasibility of the survey.
Impact Primary output will be the discovery and characterisation of new exoplanets (published in peer reviewed journals). The NGTS data will also be made publicly available through the ESO data archive. Our collaboration with the manufacturer of our CCD cameras (Andor) has resulted in a new camera product and an improved understanding of CCD camera stability.
Start Year 2009
 
Description NGTS Consortium 
Organisation German Aerospace Centre (DLR)
Department DLR Institute Of Planetary Research
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are leading the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), which is a project aiming to discover small planets around bright stars using an array of robotic telescopes at the ESO Paranal site in Chile. We initiated the project with an institutional investment of £300k, and have been joined by 5 partner institutes all making comparable financial investments. At Warwick we have purchased key components of the facility (including CCD cameras and telescope mounts), led site negotiations with ESO, and we are leading the development of the observatory control and data analysis software. In the operational phase of the project, with support from STFC, we will carrying out the data analysis and lead the search for new planets in NGTS data.
Collaborator Contribution Geneva - have purchased key equipment and led the mechanical and optical design of the telescope array. DLR - have purchased CCD cameras and contributed to the development of data analysis software. Leicester - have purchased CCD cameras and computing hardware and led the calibration of the CCD cameras. Cavendish - have purchased key equipment and provided staff support for the installation of the facility in Chile. Belfast - developed a prototype instrument for La Palma that demonstrated the scientific feasibility of the survey.
Impact Primary output will be the discovery and characterisation of new exoplanets (published in peer reviewed journals). The NGTS data will also be made publicly available through the ESO data archive. Our collaboration with the manufacturer of our CCD cameras (Andor) has resulted in a new camera product and an improved understanding of CCD camera stability.
Start Year 2009
 
Description NGTS Consortium 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are leading the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), which is a project aiming to discover small planets around bright stars using an array of robotic telescopes at the ESO Paranal site in Chile. We initiated the project with an institutional investment of £300k, and have been joined by 5 partner institutes all making comparable financial investments. At Warwick we have purchased key components of the facility (including CCD cameras and telescope mounts), led site negotiations with ESO, and we are leading the development of the observatory control and data analysis software. In the operational phase of the project, with support from STFC, we will carrying out the data analysis and lead the search for new planets in NGTS data.
Collaborator Contribution Geneva - have purchased key equipment and led the mechanical and optical design of the telescope array. DLR - have purchased CCD cameras and contributed to the development of data analysis software. Leicester - have purchased CCD cameras and computing hardware and led the calibration of the CCD cameras. Cavendish - have purchased key equipment and provided staff support for the installation of the facility in Chile. Belfast - developed a prototype instrument for La Palma that demonstrated the scientific feasibility of the survey.
Impact Primary output will be the discovery and characterisation of new exoplanets (published in peer reviewed journals). The NGTS data will also be made publicly available through the ESO data archive. Our collaboration with the manufacturer of our CCD cameras (Andor) has resulted in a new camera product and an improved understanding of CCD camera stability.
Start Year 2009
 
Description NGTS Consortium 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Cavendish Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are leading the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), which is a project aiming to discover small planets around bright stars using an array of robotic telescopes at the ESO Paranal site in Chile. We initiated the project with an institutional investment of £300k, and have been joined by 5 partner institutes all making comparable financial investments. At Warwick we have purchased key components of the facility (including CCD cameras and telescope mounts), led site negotiations with ESO, and we are leading the development of the observatory control and data analysis software. In the operational phase of the project, with support from STFC, we will carrying out the data analysis and lead the search for new planets in NGTS data.
Collaborator Contribution Geneva - have purchased key equipment and led the mechanical and optical design of the telescope array. DLR - have purchased CCD cameras and contributed to the development of data analysis software. Leicester - have purchased CCD cameras and computing hardware and led the calibration of the CCD cameras. Cavendish - have purchased key equipment and provided staff support for the installation of the facility in Chile. Belfast - developed a prototype instrument for La Palma that demonstrated the scientific feasibility of the survey.
Impact Primary output will be the discovery and characterisation of new exoplanets (published in peer reviewed journals). The NGTS data will also be made publicly available through the ESO data archive. Our collaboration with the manufacturer of our CCD cameras (Andor) has resulted in a new camera product and an improved understanding of CCD camera stability.
Start Year 2009
 
Description NGTS Consortium 
Organisation University of Chile
Department Department of Astronomy (DAS)
Country Chile 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are leading the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), which is a project aiming to discover small planets around bright stars using an array of robotic telescopes at the ESO Paranal site in Chile. We initiated the project with an institutional investment of £300k, and have been joined by 5 partner institutes all making comparable financial investments. At Warwick we have purchased key components of the facility (including CCD cameras and telescope mounts), led site negotiations with ESO, and we are leading the development of the observatory control and data analysis software. In the operational phase of the project, with support from STFC, we will carrying out the data analysis and lead the search for new planets in NGTS data.
Collaborator Contribution Geneva - have purchased key equipment and led the mechanical and optical design of the telescope array. DLR - have purchased CCD cameras and contributed to the development of data analysis software. Leicester - have purchased CCD cameras and computing hardware and led the calibration of the CCD cameras. Cavendish - have purchased key equipment and provided staff support for the installation of the facility in Chile. Belfast - developed a prototype instrument for La Palma that demonstrated the scientific feasibility of the survey.
Impact Primary output will be the discovery and characterisation of new exoplanets (published in peer reviewed journals). The NGTS data will also be made publicly available through the ESO data archive. Our collaboration with the manufacturer of our CCD cameras (Andor) has resulted in a new camera product and an improved understanding of CCD camera stability.
Start Year 2009
 
Description NGTS Consortium 
Organisation University of Geneva
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are leading the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), which is a project aiming to discover small planets around bright stars using an array of robotic telescopes at the ESO Paranal site in Chile. We initiated the project with an institutional investment of £300k, and have been joined by 5 partner institutes all making comparable financial investments. At Warwick we have purchased key components of the facility (including CCD cameras and telescope mounts), led site negotiations with ESO, and we are leading the development of the observatory control and data analysis software. In the operational phase of the project, with support from STFC, we will carrying out the data analysis and lead the search for new planets in NGTS data.
Collaborator Contribution Geneva - have purchased key equipment and led the mechanical and optical design of the telescope array. DLR - have purchased CCD cameras and contributed to the development of data analysis software. Leicester - have purchased CCD cameras and computing hardware and led the calibration of the CCD cameras. Cavendish - have purchased key equipment and provided staff support for the installation of the facility in Chile. Belfast - developed a prototype instrument for La Palma that demonstrated the scientific feasibility of the survey.
Impact Primary output will be the discovery and characterisation of new exoplanets (published in peer reviewed journals). The NGTS data will also be made publicly available through the ESO data archive. Our collaboration with the manufacturer of our CCD cameras (Andor) has resulted in a new camera product and an improved understanding of CCD camera stability.
Start Year 2009
 
Description NGTS Consortium 
Organisation University of Leicester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are leading the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), which is a project aiming to discover small planets around bright stars using an array of robotic telescopes at the ESO Paranal site in Chile. We initiated the project with an institutional investment of £300k, and have been joined by 5 partner institutes all making comparable financial investments. At Warwick we have purchased key components of the facility (including CCD cameras and telescope mounts), led site negotiations with ESO, and we are leading the development of the observatory control and data analysis software. In the operational phase of the project, with support from STFC, we will carrying out the data analysis and lead the search for new planets in NGTS data.
Collaborator Contribution Geneva - have purchased key equipment and led the mechanical and optical design of the telescope array. DLR - have purchased CCD cameras and contributed to the development of data analysis software. Leicester - have purchased CCD cameras and computing hardware and led the calibration of the CCD cameras. Cavendish - have purchased key equipment and provided staff support for the installation of the facility in Chile. Belfast - developed a prototype instrument for La Palma that demonstrated the scientific feasibility of the survey.
Impact Primary output will be the discovery and characterisation of new exoplanets (published in peer reviewed journals). The NGTS data will also be made publicly available through the ESO data archive. Our collaboration with the manufacturer of our CCD cameras (Andor) has resulted in a new camera product and an improved understanding of CCD camera stability.
Start Year 2009
 
Description BBC website request to comment 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Asked by BBC website to comment on exoplanet news story. Quoted extensively in story.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49855058
 
Description Talk to British Astronomical Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on STFC-funded exoplanet research to the British Astronomical Society Spring Meeting, Nottingham.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.britastro.org/nottingham2020
 
Description Talk to Melton Astronomical Society - May 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on exoplanets to a local astronomical society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description warwick open day talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talks to groups of 200-300 at University of Warwick open days
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019