A small CCD photometer dedicated to the detection of extrasolar planets has been developed and put into operation at Mount Hamilton, California. It simultaneously monitors 6000 stars brighter than 13th magnitude in its 49 deg2 field of view. Observations are conducted all night every clear night of the year. A single field is monitored at a cadence of eight images per hour for a period of about 3 months. When the data are folded for the purpose of discovering low-amplitude transits, transit amplitudes of 1% are readily detected. This precision is sufficient to find Jovian-size planets orbiting solar-like stars, which have signal amplitudes from 1% to 2% depending on the inflation of the planet’s atmosphere and the size of the star. An investigation of possible noise sources indicates that neither star field crowding, scintillation noise, nor photon shot noise are the major noise sources for stars brighter than visual magnitude 11.6. Over one hundred variable stars have been found in each star field. About 50 of these stars are eclipsing binary stars, several with transit amplitudes of only a few percent. Three stars that showed only primary transits were examined with high-precision spectroscopy. Two were found to be nearly identical stars in binary pairs orbiting at double the photometric period. Spectroscopic observations showed the third star to be a high mass ratio single-lined binary. On 1999 November 22 the transit of a planet orbiting HD 209458 was observed and the predicted amplitude and immersion times were confirmed. These observations show that the photometer and the data reduction and analysis algorithms have the necessary precision to find companions with the expected area ratio for Jovian-size planets orbiting solar-like stars.
Department, Program, or Center
Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 113N782 (2001) 439-451
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