Centre for Space Exochemistry Data - CSED



30 June 2022

The Ariel Data Challenge 2022 is now open!

Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts have been challenged to help a new space mission to investigate Earth’s place in the universe.

The Ariel Data Challenge 2022, which launches on 30th June, is inviting AI and machine learning experts from industry and academia to help astronomers understand planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.

Dr Ingo Waldmann, Associate Professor in Astrophysics, UCL (University College London) and Ariel Data Challenge lead said: “AI has revolutionised many fields of science and industry in the past years. The field of exoplanets has fully arrived in the era of big-data and cutting edge AI is needed to break some of our biggest bottlenecks holding us back.” 

Understanding our place in the universe

For centuries, astronomers could only glimpse the planets in our solar system but in recent years, thanks to telescopes in space, they have discovered more than 5000 planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy. The European Space Agency’s Ariel telescope will complete one of the largest ever surveys of these planets by observing the atmospheres of around one fifth of the known exoplanets. Due to the large number of planets in this survey, and the expected complexity the captured observations, Ariel mission scientists are calling for the help of the AI and machine learning community to help interpret the data.

Ariel Data Challenge

Ariel will study the light from each exoplanet’s host star after it has travelled through the planet’s atmosphere in what is known as a spectrum. The information from these spectra can help scientists investigate the chemical make-up of the planet’s atmosphere and discover more about these planets and how they formed. Scientists involved in the Ariel mission need a new method to interpret these data. Advanced machine learning techniques could help them to understand the impact of different atmospheric phenomena on the observed spectrum.

The Ariel Data Challenge calls on the AI community to investigate solutions. The competition is open from 30th June to early October.

Participants are free to use any model, algorithm, data pre-processing technique or other tools to provide a solution. They may submit as many solutions as they like and collaborations between teams are welcomed.

For the first time, this year the competition is also offering 20 participants access to High Powered Computing resource through DiRAC, part of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council’s computing facilities.

Kai Hou (Gordon) Yip, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCL and Ariel Data Challenge Lead said: “With the arrival of next-generation instrumentation, astronomers are struggling to keep up with the complexity and volume of incoming exo-planetary data. The NeurIPS data challenge 2022 provides an excellent platform to facilitate cross-disciplinary solutions with AI experts.”

The competition

Winners will be invited to present their solution at the prestigious NeurIPS conference. First prize winning teams will be awarded $2,000 and second prize winners will receive $500. Winners will also be invited to present their solution to the Ariel consortium. The competition is supported by the UK Space Agency, European Research Council, European Space Agency and Europlanet Society.

Previous competition

This is the third Ariel Machine Learning Data challenge following successful competitions in 2019 and 2021. The 2021 challenge welcomed 130 participants from across Europe, including entrants from leading academic institutes and AI companies. This challenge, and its predecessor have taken a bite-sized aspect of a larger problem to help make exoplanet research more accessible to the machine learning community. The challenge is not designed to solve the data analysis issues faced by the mission outright but provides a forum for discussion and to encourage future collaborations.

More details about the competition and how to take part can be found on the Ariel Data Challenge website. Follow @ArielTelescope for more updates.

To continue reading the full Ariel press release, click here.

25 April 2022

Mysteries of gas giants known as ‘hot Jupiters’ unravelled - major new study led by UCL researchers

Five Key Exoplanet Questions Answered via the Analysis of 25 Hot-Jupiter Atmospheres in Eclipse 

The study, published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, is one of the largest ever surveys of exoplanet atmospheres ever undertaken. Researchers employed high performance computers at the DiRAC HPC facility to analyse the atmospheres of 25 hot Jupiters using data from about 1,000 hours of telescope observations.

Hot Jupiters are gas giants that orbit close to their star, typically in less than 10 days. While there are none in our own solar system, they are a commonly observed type of planet outside it.

By using a large sample of exoplanets and analysing an extremely large amount of data, the researchers were able to determine trends and resolve questions that smaller studies have been unable to conclusively answer over many years.

To continue reading, please click:

Image: Artist’s impression of 25 hot Jupiters. Credit: ESA/Hubble, N. Bartmann

Darius award
25 March 2022

Congratulations to Quentin Changeat on being awarded the Jon Darius Memorial Prize!

In Quentin's own words: "I am very honoured to receive the Darius prize for the completion of my thesis. This is a very emotional moment for me as it concludes three years of hard work and very good fun. I feel extremely lucky to have been provided with the opportunity to perform my research in the Astro group: working in such an ideal environment and with brilliant colleagues. In particular, I am very thankful to Giovanna and Ingo for bringing me into this adventure and providing me extensive support along the way."

11 January 2022

The second paper produced by the ExoClock team has been accepted for publication by the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series!

The paper is a collective study of updated ephemerides for 180 planets which are included in the Mission Reference Sample of the Ariel space mission. The paper has 105 co-authors including professional, amateur Astronomers and also university and high school students.

Impact for the Ariel Space Mission - The results show that small and medium sized telescopes can observe the targets and successfully monitor their ephemerides. On this way, the efficiency of the ariel mission is increased to the maximum. Small telescopes by amateur Astronomers contribute to real science having a high impact to the mission. The updated ephemerides were produced as a result of a combination of data: 1600 observations from the ExoClock network, 2500 mid-time points from the literature and 18 observations provided by the Exoplanet Transit Database (ETD).

Our goal is double: increase the efficiency of the ariel space mission and bring people from different backgrounds together and work in a collaborative spirit.

“Science is for everyone, and we are very happy that through the project everyone can be part of a real space mission. Our observers come from more than 30 countries and have different backgrounds. Every contribution counts and becomes valuable in ExoClock. It is wonderful to see so many people willing to learn and participate in a space mission. Our team keeps growing daily with participants from all over the world.” said Anastasia Kokori, ExoClock project coordinator. 

Leas image
01 December 2021

Dr Gordon Yip and Dr Quentin Changeats article “AI can reliably spot molecules on exoplanets – and might one day even discover new laws of physics” has been published on The Conversation. To read the full article, please click here. 

Nour Skaf
07 October 2021

Congratulations to Nour Skaf, CSED Honorary PhD Student, who was awarded the L'Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Rising Talent Prize 2021 

Nour was awarded the prize for her research about direct imaging of extrasolar planets. The award ceremony took place at the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris, on October 7th. 

Nour is enrolled in a PhD at LESIA (Observatoire de Paris-PSL) working on "The self-optimisation of adaptive optics (OA) for the study of exoplanets in direct imaging”. She carries out her research jointly between LESIA, UCL-CSED, and the SCExAO team at the Subaru telescope in Hawaii. She is part of the Ariel consortium, ESA’s next space mission aiming at studying exoplanet atmospheres.

The grant coming along with the L'Oréal-UNESCO prize will help her have a sophisticated coronograph manufactured, which will allow to make the link between her research projects by combining the gain in imaging with spectroscopy. 

Nour is also very involved in outreach in astronomy and astrophysics. Passionate about night sky photography and nature, she is very active at alerting the general public to the fragility and unique beauty of our planet.

Taurex 3.1
04 October 2021 

With great anticipation, the newest version of the open-source framework TauREx 3.1 is finally available to the public!

The UCL team, led by Dr Ahmed Al-Refaie, has worked hard to bring new groundbreaking features and performance improvements to the community. 

TauREx 3.1 features the new plugin system, allowing anyone to enhance and grow the framework with minimal effort. Accompanied with this release, TauREx 3.1 has plugins for blazing-fast GPU modelling, new chemistries, samplers, opacities and even other spectral codes! Our most recent publication exploits this powerful feature to compare the exoplanet chemistry codes ACE, Fastchem and GGChem, demonstrating their consistency in modelling exo-atmospheres.

TauREx 3.1 is central to CSED commitment to open science and plan to publish its research software open source.

Article: https://arxiv.org/abs/2110.01271
PyPi: https://pypi.org/project/taurex/
Github: https://github.com/ucl-exoplanets/TauREx3_public

Dr Ingo Waldmann
30 September 2021

Congratulations to Dr Ingo Waldmann, CSED Deputy Director, who has been appointed Fellow of The Alan Turing Institute!




15 September 2021 

Winners announced for the machine vs stellar and instrument noise data challenge

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts from around the world have been competing for the opportunity to help astronomers to explore planets in our local galactic neighbourhood.

The European Space Agency’s Ariel telescope, which launches in 2029, will study the atmospheres of around 1000 planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. Observing faint signals to measure the make-up of exoplanet atmospheres is incredibly challenging and is made even more so by other signals the instrument may pick up. The effect of star activity, like sun spots, and even the noise of the spacecraft itself can obscure the information scientists receive from Ariel.

The Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge, sponsored by Spaceflux Ltd, was set to harness the expertise of the artificial intelligence community to help disentangle this unwanted noise from the light filtering through exoplanet atmospheres. Over 110 teams from around the world participated with 35 teams submitting viable solutions. The teams represented a mix of academia and AI companies.

The competition winners, ML Analytics, an artificial intelligence company in Portugal, and a team from TU Dortmund University in Germany were able to achieve highly accurate solutions for even the most difficult to observe planets.

To continue reading the full press release, follow the link above. 


01 April 2021

Ariel Data Challenge 2021 Launch

A new Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge has been launched called: Machine vs Stellar and Instrument Noise. Check out the website for more information! 

11 March 2021 

How can some planets be hotter than stars? We’ve started to unravel the mystery

Until the early 2000s, the only known planets were located in our own neighbourhood, the Solar System. They broadly form two categories: the small rocky planets in the inner Solar System and the cold gaseous planets located in the outer part. With the discovery of exoplanets, planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, additional classes of planets were discovered and a new picture started to emerge. Our Solar System is by no means typical.

November 2020

The European Space Agency formally adopts Ariel, the exoplanet explorer

The European Space Agency (ESA) have formally adopted Ariel, the first mission dedicated to study the nature, formation and evolution of exoplanets. Ariel has passed major feasibility reviews and has been formally adopted into the program of future missions for implementation. It will survey about 1000 planets outside our solar system during its lifetime. Ariel will unveil the nature, formation and evolution of a large and assorted sample of planets around different types of stars in our galaxy. Ariel press release. ESA press release.  

11 September 2019

First water detected on potentially ‘habitable’ planet

Water vapour has been detected in the atmosphere of a super-Earth with habitable temperatures by UCL researchers in a world first. K2-18b, which is eight times the mass of Earth, is now the only planet orbiting a star outside the Solar System, or ‘exoplanet’, known to have both water and temperatures that could support life. The discovery, published in Nature Astronomy, is the first successful atmospheric detection for an exoplanet orbiting in its star’s ‘habitable zone’, at a distance where water can exist in liquid form.