Exploiting the Next Generation Transit Survey

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is a new search for extra-solar planets transiting their host stars. Its primary goal is to find Neptune-sized planets, and perhaps the largest rocky planets ("Super-Earths") around stars that are also bright enough to enable follow-up studies to determine their masses and densities, and to investigate the planets' atmospheric compositions, for example with the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Already, NGTS has accumulated several hundred Terabytes of data, and millions of images, that have to be searched automatically by sophisticated algorithms and bespoke software. Excitingly, NGTS's first planets have now been discovered and will be published shortly. At Leicester, we are leading the photometric follow-up of NGTS exoplanet candidates. After carefully selecting candidates from among thousands of light curves highlighted by the automatic algorithms, we use telescopes at the South African Astronomical Observatory to confirm bona fide transits, identify mimics such as background binary stars, and to refine the orbital periods. The NGTS team at Leicester would like to attract an enthusiastic PhD student to participate in the work leading to these exciting exoplanet discoveries. In particular, during 2018 NASA will launch its TESS mission which will find transiting exoplanets around hundreds of nearby and bright stars. We can use NGTS data to confirm TESS discoveries and remove background binaries, provide additional long term data to refine orbital periods and ephemerises, and hunt for long period planets (NGTS monitors stars for much longer than TESS). In addition, NGTS is gathering long term, high cadence, observations of a host of different types of variable stars and other celestial objects. We would particularly encourage a PhD student to exploit some of these non-exoplanet data, for example by searching for rare types of binary star and investigating the key science that those objects can address.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ST/R504890/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2021
2107878 Studentship ST/R504890/1 23/09/2018 30/03/2022 Rosanna Tilbrook