Planet Hunters NGTS: Metadata

In this blog post, we explain the meaning of, and how to use, the different values and info given in the subject metadata on Planet Hunters NGTS.

On Planet Hunters NGTS, once you classify a subject you can choose ‘Done’ to move to the next subject and keep classifying, or you can choose ‘Done & Talk’ if you want to start a discussion with the Planet Hunters community about anything interesting you may have found. When you are looking at a subject image in the Talk discussion boards, you’ll be able to access the subject metadata by clicking the ‘i in a circle’ button. This metadata is additional info about the subject, some of which will be interesting to Zooniverse users wanting to delve deeper into their classifications.

Figure 1: How to find the metadata

Once you click the metadata icon, you’ll find a varying number of information fields, depending on whether the subject has linked images or is a known planet, but more on that later.

Figure 2: Metadata

The first field is ‘sde’ which stands for ‘Signal Detection Efficiency.’ This value can be interpreted as how “strong” the signal is, according to the computer algorithm. The calculation of this value is described in Kovács et al. (2002) which describes the Box-fitting Least Squares (BLS) algorithm that forms the basis for the NGTS exoplanet transit searches.

As a demonstration, consider a full light curve (not phase-folded) such as the image below (which uses artificial data). I’ve injected a transit with a 3-day period into the light curve and we’re going to use a BLS algorithm to search for this.

Figure 3: Simulated full light curve with 3-day period transiting object

I’ve used the AstroPy package’s BLS periodogram tool. This calculates the ‘power’ for a range of periods, this ‘power’ is equivalent to our SDE value mentioned above. The resulting ‘periodogram’ is plotted in the figure below. This shows the power value plotted against period with peaks in the periodogram corresponding to where the algorithm believes there is a strong periodic signal in the light curve.

Figure 4: BLS Periodogram

As we can see, the algorithm has picked out the strongest signal at a period of 3 days, just as we expected as this is the true period of the signal I injected. We also see peaks (of decreasing power) around 1.5 days, 6 days, 9 days and 1 day. You may notice that these are all multiples or fractions of the true period. We refer to these as period aliases and it’s expected that they will produce peaks in the BLS periodogram. Sometimes these can even be the true period of a signal, which leads us to our next metadata field.

‘peak’ is the strength of the peak according to the BLS algorithm, ranked by SDE. 1 is the strongest peak (our 3-day period in the example above), down to 5 for the 5th strongest. Anything less significant than this doesn’t have a phase-folded image generated for Planet Hunters NGTS. Currently only Peak 1 objects are on the Planet Hunters NGTS site as these are most likely to correspond to the true period of a transiting object but we plan to include plots for other peaks in future.

‘prod_id’ and ‘obj_id’ are internal identifiers that are used as labels for the stars. These values therefore only have meaning to the NGTS science team.

‘plot_type’ simply refers to which workflow this subject is from:

  • ‘primary_phased’ is for subjects in the Exoplanet Transit Search. These plots show where we think the primary eclipse of the phase-folded light curve is. See Figure 1.
  • ‘secondary_phased’ is for subjects in the Secondary Eclipse Check. These plots show where we think the secondary eclipse could be, around phase=0.5. See Figure 5 below
Figure 5: Secondary eclipse check
  • ‘odd_even’ is for subjects in the Odd Even Transit Check. These plots show the odd (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.) transits in green and the even (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.) transits in magenta. If the depths of the odd and even transits don’t match then that’s a clear indicator that we’re looking at an eclipsing binary rather than an exoplanet transit. See Figure 6 below for the Odd/Even image corresponding to the subject shown in Figure 1.
Figure 6: Odd/even transit check

‘stellar_rad’ is the radius of the host star, expressed in units of Solar radii (i.e. a star with stellar_rad equal to 2.0 has a radius twice the size of our Sun). This can be used to estimate the radius of the transiting object. First, we estimate the depth of the transit. For the subject shown in Figure 1 (which is confirmed planet NGTS-5b), the transit depth is around 0.025 (or 2.5%), since the flux drops from 1.0 to 0.975 (typo corrected). We can then use this, along with the stellar radius of 0.75 Solar radii, in the equation:

R_p=9.73 \times R_* \times \sqrt{Depth},

to calculate an estimated planetary radius of 1.15 Jupiter radii. You can read more about how planet radius, stellar radius and depth are related here. The equation I use here is a quicker method as the multiplication factor of 9.73 is such that if you use R* in solar radii, as given in the metadata, then your answer will be in Jupiter radii. You can use this method to work out whether a transiting object is plausibly a planet, typically anything above 1.5 Jupiter radii is unlikely to be a planet.

(Note sometimes the stellar radius value will say ‘nan’ or ‘unavailable,’ this just means we don’t have a good measurement of the star’s radius.)

Extra fields

‘primary_phased,’ ‘secondary_phased’ and ‘odd_even’ provide links to the different plot types for subjects that have passed into the secondary and odd/even workflows. This makes it easier to vet candidates as you can view all the available data quickly and easily. 

Finally, we have the ‘known_planet’ field. This will only appear for previously known exoplanets (such as NGTS-5b above) and means that the subject image you are viewing corresponds to a planet that appears in the NASA Exoplanet Archive. Finding known exoplanets is a useful test of the detection efficiencies of the project as a whole, and it’s always exciting to know if you’re looking at data from a real exoplanet system too! Some subjects on the Planet Hunters NGTS site are still undergoing follow-up by the NGTS science team so might be strong planet candidates but won’t be confirmed and published exoplanets. This means that there will be subjects not marked as known planets in their metadata, but the NGTS team may already be aware of it and have put in the work to begin characterising the system further.

We hope this blog post can serve as a useful reference in future as you get involved with Planet Hunters NGTS.

About astrosobrien

PhD Student at Queen's University Belfast, searching NGTS data for exoplanets with the help of citizen scientists (

2 responses to “Planet Hunters NGTS: Metadata”

  1. Lorenzo says :

    why do you say the transit depth is 0.025? From 1 to 0.985 the depth should be 0.015, right?

    • astrosobrien says :

      Thanks for pointing that out! It should be ‘1 to 0.975,’ I must’ve mis-typed when reading the depth change. Luckily the depth of 0.025 was the correct value, so the rest of the calculation is fine.

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