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Characterising extrasolar planetary systems

Characterising extrasolar planetary systems from the Next Generation Transit Survey


Project description and background

The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is a wide-field photometric survey consisting of an array of 12 robotic telescopes operating at the world's premier observatory site in the Atacama desert at La Paranal, Chile. NGTS works by observing the periodic dips caused by a planet as it transits across the face of its host star. Designed to achieve unprecedented photometric precision for a ground-based facility, NGTS has enabled the discovery of a wide range of exoplanets. These include 'monster' giant planets around red-dwarf stars (where the formation of such a planet is challenging to explain), exposed planetary cores, as well as planets as small as 3 Earth radii. NGTS supports a diverse range of world-leading research activities including probing the youngest planetary systems and their host stars, stellar flares, the follow-up of long-period planet candidates identified by other missions such as NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), as well as NGTS's own bespoke surveys.

Applications are invited for a PhD position at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) to work under the supervision of Prof. Chris Watson and Dr. Ernst de Mooij on the discovery and characterisation of exoplanet candidates identified by NGTS. Specifically, this will focus predominantly on the longest period planet candidates identified by the NGTS consortium - which represent some of the coolest transiting exoplanets known. However, involvement in the other science areas of NGTS will also be encouraged. The student will use existing codes (such as Allesfitter for simultaneous modelling of exoplanet transit lightcurves and spectroscopic mass measurements) as well as developing custom-made software where appropriate.


The Astrophysics Research Centre at QUB offers a vibrant environment for research. Within the exoplanet group, team members are involved with NGTS, the High Accuracy Radial-velocity North (HARPS-N) project, and the Terra Hunting Experiment amongst others. The successful applicant will be able to avail of the unique collaborative networks built by QUB researchers, and will work alongside other members of the NGTS consortium that includes academics from the Universities of Cambridge, Warwick, Leicester, Universidad of Chile, the German Space Agency (DLR Berlin), and the Observatoire de Genève.

More information

Supervisor: Prof. Chris Watson (

Co-supervisor: Dr. Ernst de Mooij (