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13 February 2003 The EXPLORE project: A Deep search for transiting extrasolar planets
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Searching for transits provides a very promising technique for finding close-in extra-solar planets. Transiting planets present the advantage of allowing one to determine physical properties such as mass and radius unambiguously. The EXPLORE (EXtra-solar PLanet Occultation REsearch) project is a transit search project carried out using wide-field CCD imaging cameras on 4-m class telescopes, and 8--10m class telescopes for velocity verifications of the photometric candidates. We describe some of the considerations that go into the design of the EXPLORE transit search to maximize the discovery rate and minimize contaminating objects that mimic transiting planets. We show that high precision photometry (2 to 10 millimag) and high time sampling (few minutes) are crucial for sifting out contaminating signatures, such as grazing binaries. We have an efficient data reduction pipeline which allows us to completely reduce the data in less than one month after the imaging observations, allowing us to conduct same-semester velocity follow-up observations, reducing the phase uncertainty. We have completed two searches using the 8k MOSAIC camera at the CTIO4m and the CFH12k camera at CFHT, with runs covering 11 and 16 nights, respectively. Using the 4400 images from the two fields, we obtained light curves for approximately 47,000 stars with better than $\sim1$\% photometric precision. A number of light curves with flat-bottomed eclipses consistent with being produced by transiting planets has been discovered. Preliminary results from follow-up spectroscopic observations using the VLT UVES spectrograph and the Keck HIRES spectrograph obtained for a number of the candidates are presented. Data from four of these can be interpreted consistently as possible planet candidates, although further data are still required for definitive confirmations.
© (2003) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Howard K. C. Yee, Gabriela Mallen-Ornelas, Sara Seager, Michael Gladders, Timothy X. Brown, Dante Minnitti, Sara Ellison, and Guillermo Mallen-Fullerton "The EXPLORE project: A Deep search for transiting extrasolar planets", Proc. SPIE 4834, Discoveries and Research Prospects from 6- to 10-Meter-Class Telescopes II, (13 February 2003);


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