Title

Determining Exoplanet Detection Sensitivity of the Minerva Observatory

Presenter Information

Chantanelle NavaFollow

Presentation Type

Poster

Abstract

One of the most profound questions of modern science facing humankind is whether or not we are alone in the universe. Our first step toward answering this question is detecting and characterizing rocky, Earth-like planets with conditions capable of sustaining life. Results from the NASA Kepler mission indicate that our galaxy of an estimated 200 billion stars contains hundreds of millions of other Earths to be discovered. We look specifically to Earth-like exoplanets orbiting in the habitable zone, the annulus around a star in which temperatures can support liquid water, for the first signs of life-sustaining potential. Minerva is a dedicated observatory of four 0.7-meter telescopes designed to detect these Earth-like exoplanets. It is essential to determine Minerva’s planet detection sensitivity as a function of orbital parameters for potential exoplanets. I am currently exploring Minerva’s capabilities using an original program written in IDL. I select a mass, host-star mass, and orbital parameters for a hypothetical planet and calculate its expected orbital line-of-sight velocity curve. I then add statistical noise to the curve using residuals of data collected from HARPS, an exoplanet detection project of comparable precision to that of Minerva. I feed this final simulated velocity curve to Minerva’s planet detection software to assess whether or not it recovers the originally selected planet mass and orbital parameters. Determining Minerva’s planet detection capability informs the project’s target selection and helps us understand the instrumental biases influencing Minerva exoplanet discoveries. Minerva is a collaboration among the University of Montana, the California Institute of Technology, and Pennsylvania State University.

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Apr 12th, 3:00 PM Apr 12th, 4:00 PM

Determining Exoplanet Detection Sensitivity of the Minerva Observatory

UC Ballroom

One of the most profound questions of modern science facing humankind is whether or not we are alone in the universe. Our first step toward answering this question is detecting and characterizing rocky, Earth-like planets with conditions capable of sustaining life. Results from the NASA Kepler mission indicate that our galaxy of an estimated 200 billion stars contains hundreds of millions of other Earths to be discovered. We look specifically to Earth-like exoplanets orbiting in the habitable zone, the annulus around a star in which temperatures can support liquid water, for the first signs of life-sustaining potential. Minerva is a dedicated observatory of four 0.7-meter telescopes designed to detect these Earth-like exoplanets. It is essential to determine Minerva’s planet detection sensitivity as a function of orbital parameters for potential exoplanets. I am currently exploring Minerva’s capabilities using an original program written in IDL. I select a mass, host-star mass, and orbital parameters for a hypothetical planet and calculate its expected orbital line-of-sight velocity curve. I then add statistical noise to the curve using residuals of data collected from HARPS, an exoplanet detection project of comparable precision to that of Minerva. I feed this final simulated velocity curve to Minerva’s planet detection software to assess whether or not it recovers the originally selected planet mass and orbital parameters. Determining Minerva’s planet detection capability informs the project’s target selection and helps us understand the instrumental biases influencing Minerva exoplanet discoveries. Minerva is a collaboration among the University of Montana, the California Institute of Technology, and Pennsylvania State University.