The last decade has witnessed a rapid growth of the field of exoplanet discovery and characterisation. However, several big challenges remain, many of which could be addressed using machine learning methodology. For instance, the most prolific method for detecting exoplanets and inferring several of their characteristics, transit photometry, is very sensitive to the presence of stellar spots. The current practice in the literature is to identify the effects of spots visually and correct for them manually or discard the affected data. This paper explores a first step towards fully automating the efficient and precise derivation of transit depths from transit light curves in the presence of stellar spots. The methods and results we present were obtained in the context of the 1st Machine Learning Challenge organized for the European Space Agency's upcoming Ariel mission. We first present the problem, the simulated Ariel-like data and outline the Challenge while identifying best practices for organizing similar challenges in the future. Finally, we present the solutions obtained by the top-5 winning teams, provide their code and discuss their implications. Successful solutions either construct highly non-linear (w.r.t. the raw data) models with minimal preprocessing -deep neural networks and ensemble methods- or amount to obtaining meaningful statistics from the light curves, constructing linear models on which yields comparably good predictive performance.

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