Machine-learning approaches to exoplanet transit detection and candidate validation in wide-field ground-based surveys

N. Schanche, A. Collier Cameron, G. Hébrard, L. Nielsen, A. H. M. J. Triaud, J. M. Almenara, K. A. Alsubai, D. R. Anderson, D. J. Armstrong, S. C. C. Barros, F. Bouchy, P. Boumis, D. J. A. Brown, F. Faedi, K. Hay, L. Hebb, F. Kiefer, L. Mancini, P. F. L. Maxted, E. PalleD. L. Pollacco, D. Queloz, B. Smalley, S. Udry, R. West, P. J. Wheatley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Since the start of the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) program, more than 160 transiting exoplanets have been discovered in the WASP data. In the past, possible transit-like events identified by the WASP pipeline have been vetted by human inspection to eliminate false alarms and obvious false positives. The goal of the present paper is to assess the effectiveness of machine learning as a fast, automated, and reliable means of performing the same functions on ground-based wide-field transit-survey data without human intervention. To this end, we have created training and test datasets made up of stellar light curves showing a variety of signal types including planetary transits, eclipsing binaries, variable stars, and non-periodic signals. We use a combination of machine learning methods including Random Forest Classifiers (RFCs) and Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) to distinguish between the different types of signals. The final algorithms correctly identify planets in the test data ∼90% of the time, although each method on its own has a significant fraction of false positives. We find that in practice, a combination of different methods offers the best approach to identifying the most promising exoplanet transit candidates in data from WASP, and by extension similar transit surveys.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5534-5547
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Early online date22 Nov 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Nov 2018


  • Planets and satellites: detection
  • Methods: statistical
  • Methods: data analysis


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