Comparative blind test of five planetary transit detection algorithms on realistic synthetic light curves

C. Moutou*, F. Pont, P. Barge, S. Aigrain, M. Auvergne, D. Blouin, R. Cautain, A. R. Erikson, V. Guis, P. Guterman, M. Irwin, A. F. Lanza, D. Queloz, H. Rauer, H. Voss, S. Zucker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Because photometric surveys of exoplanet transits are very promising sources of future discoveries, many algorithms are being developed to detect transit signals in stellar light curves. This paper compares such algorithms for the next generation of space-based transit detection surveys like CoRoT, Kepler, and Eddington, Five independent analyses of a thousand synthetic light curves are presented. The light curves were produced with an end-to-end instrument simulator and include stellar microvariability and a varied sample of stellar and planetary transits diluted within a much larger set of light curves. The results show that different algorithms perform quite differently, with varying degrees of success in detecting real transits and avoiding false positives. We also find that the detection algorithm alone does not make all the difference, as the way the light curves are filtered and detrended beforehand also has a strong impact on the detection limit and on the false alarm rate. The microvariability of sun-like stars is a limiting factor only in extreme cases, when the fluctuation amplitudes are large and the star is faint. In the majority of cases it does not prevent detection of planetary transits. The most sensitive analysis is performed with periodic box-shaped detection filters. False positives are method-dependent, which should allow reduction of their detection rate in real surveys. Background eclipsing binaries are wrongly identified as planetary transits in most cases, a result which confirms that contamination by background stars is the main limiting factor. With parameters simulating the CoRoT mission, our detection test indicates that the smallest detectable planet radius is on the order of 2 Earth radii for a 10-day orbital period planet around a KO dwarf.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-368
Number of pages14
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Methods: data analysis
  • Methods: observational
  • Planetary systems
  • Techniques: photometric


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