Reader for lightcurves from the ZTF Public Data Release

pip install zort==1.8.3


zort : ZTF Object Reader Tool

Getting Started

The ZTF Object Reader Tool, zort, is set of functions to organize and access the ZTF Public Data Release lightcurves across multiple colors.

ZTF Public Data Release Lightcurves

Instructions for downloading and extracting ZTF Public Data Release Lightcurves can be found at:

The ZTF Public Data Release Lightcurves are generated through spatially cross-matching individual epoch photometric catalogs. Catalogs are pre-filtered to be (1) the same ZTF observation field ID, (2) the same CCD readout channel, and (3) the same photometric color. Spatially coincidence observations in these catalogs are all labelled as objects and saved to a common ascii file along with the observation data for each epoch of the object. These files are consolidated such that all objects sharing a common ZTF observation field ID reside in the same file.

zort refers to these files with extension *.txt as lightcurve files.


zort provides facilitates the reading and inspection of lightcurves in the ZTF Public Data Release. The features of zort include:

  • Seamless looping through ZTF lightcurves for custom filtering, where interesting objects can be saved and recovered by only their file location
  • Consolidating g-band and R-band lightcurves of a single source that are otherwise labelled as two separate objects by pairing objects as "siblings"
  • Plotting lightcurves in multiple colors for visual inspection


Preferred method is through pip:

pip install zort

Latest version can also be installed from github:

git clone
cd zort
python install


  • lightcurve file: Files included in the ZTF Public Data Release containing epoch photometry for spatially coincidence observations
  • object: A collection of spatially coincident observations in a single color. Objects include IDs, sky locations (in right ascension and declination) and colors (g-band and R-band).
  • lightcurve: Observation epochs of an object. Lightcurve observations include dates, magnitudes and magnitude errors.
  • radec_map: Binary search trees for the objects in a lightcurve file. required for faster object access.
  • siblings: A spatially coincident object in a different color originating from the same astrophysical source.


zort requires two additional data products per lightcurve file (*.txt) in order to make object discovery and multiple color consolidation faster. Object files (*.objects) contain all of the metadata for each object in a lightcurve file. RCID map files (*.radec_map) contain binary search trees that facilitates faster matching of multiple colors for individual objects. zort requires that each lightcurve file has a corresponding object file and RCID map file.

To generate object files and RCID map files for a directory of lightcurve files, run

zort-initialize -lightcurve-file-directory=LIGHTCURVE_FILE_DIRECTORY -single

or if mpi4py is installed then launch multiple instances of

zort-initialize -lightcurve-file-directory=LIGHTCURVE_FILE_DIRECTORY -parallel

If each lightcurve file does not have an object file and an RCID map then zort will not be able to locate siblings


Extracting Lightcurves

zort is designed to provide you with easy access to all of the lightcurves in a lightcurve file for applying filters and saving interesting objects. The preferred method for inspecting lightcurves is through a for-loop.

A filter is created that returns True for interesting objects. This filter can involve simply cuts on object properties or complicated model fitting to the full observation data in the object's lightcurve

def my_interesting_filter(obj):
    cond1 = obj.nepochs >= 20
    cond2 = min(obj.lightcurve.mag) <= 17.0
    if cond1 and cond2:
        return True
        return False

When a lightcurve file is looped over, it returns each object in the lightcurve file. Interesting objects can be gathered into a list and saved to disk using the save_objects function.

filename = 'lightcurve_file_example.txt'
interesting_objects = []

from zort.lightcurveFile import LightcurveFile
for obj in LightcurveFile(filename):
    if my_interesting_filter(obj):
from zort.object import save_objects
save_objects('objects.list', interesting_objects)

Objects and their lightcurves can be retrieved from a saved list by using the load_objects function. Each object comes loaded with its metadata and lightcurve, easily previewed by printing the object and lightcurve attribute.

from zort.object import load_objects
interesting_objects = load_objects('objects.list')
for obj in interesting_objects:

Objects can also be extracted in parallel by instantiating the LightcurveFile class with a rank and size. This could be done through mpi4py, or other parallelization packages. The LightcurveFile class simply needs to be told the rank of the parallel process and the total number, or size, of the parallel processes.

from mpi4py import MPI
rank = comm.rank
size = comm.size

filename = 'lightcurve_file_example.txt'
interesting_objects = []

from zort.lightcurveFile import LightcurveFile
for obj in LightcurveFile(filename, proc_rank=rank, proc_size=size):
    if my_interesting_filter(obj):
from zort.object import save_objects
save_objects('objects.%i.list' % rank, interesting_objects)

Setting the proc_rank and proc_size parameters will cause the iterator to uniquely send different objects to each parallel process without loading all of the objects into memory for each process. This allows for applying a filter to all of the objects in a lightcurve file without overloading memory.

Matching multiple colors for an object

Each object is defined as a spatially coincidence series of observations that share a (1) ZTF observation field ID, (2) CCD readout channel, and (3) photometric filter. This labels multiple colors of the same astrophysical source as separate ZTF objects with separate object IDs. The ZTF Public Data Release does not provide any native support for pairing these objects as multiple colors of the same source.

zort supports searching for and saving multiple colors for the same source. The ZTF Public Data Release contains observations in g-band (filterid=1) and R-band (filterid=2). Each object can therefore have one additional object that comes from the same astrophysical source but is in a different color. These matching objects are labelled as "siblings" and can be both discovered and saved with zort.

The siblings for each object can be located by simply running an object's
locate_siblings method. Running

filename = 'field000245_ra357.03053to5.26702_dec-27.96964to-20.4773.txt'
buffer_position = 6852
obj = Object(filename, buffer_position)

results in

Locating siblings for ZTF Object 245101100000025
-- Object location: 4.74852, -26.23583 ...
** siblings file missing! **
-- Searching between buffers 17749819 and 18135260
---- Sibling found at 4.74851, -26.23581 !
---- Original Color: 1 | Sibling Color: 2
---- Sibling saved

An object's siblings is itself another object and can be accessed through the siblings attribute.

Filename: field000245_ra357.03053to5.26702_dec-27.96964to-20.4773.txt
Buffer Position: 6852
Object ID: 245101100000025
Color: g
Ra/Dec: (4.74852, -26.23583)
22 Epochs passing quality cuts

Filename: field000245_ra357.03053to5.26702_dec-27.96964to-20.4773.txt
Buffer Position: 126136890
Object ID: 245201100000047
Color: r
Ra/Dec: (4.74851, -26.23581)
22 Epochs passing quality cuts

The default tolerance for matching two objects as siblings is 2.0". However this can be altered by setting the radius argument in obj.locate_siblings().

Plotting lightcurves

A lightcurve plot can be generated for any object using the obj.plot_lightcurve() method.

A lightcurve plot including an object's siblings cand be generated using the obj.plot_lightcurves() method.


  • python 3.6
  • numpy
  • scipy
  • astropy
  • matplotlib
  • shapely