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Antarctica Search for Transiting Extrasolar Planets

  • M. Giard, F. Casoli, F. Paletou, F. Fressin (a1), T. Guillot (a1), F. Bouchy (a2), A. Erikson (a3), J. Gay (a1), A. Léger (a4), F. Pont (a5), H. Rauer (a3), J.-P. Rivet (a1) and F. Valbousquet (a6)...

Abstract

We present “A STEP”, a project dedicated to the search for planetary transits from Antartica. The project consists of a fully automatic 40 cm telescope equipped with an 11-million-pixel CCD installed at Dome C. The site offers crucial assets for a ground-based exoplanet transit search: uninterrupted phase coverage and excellent seeing. 
This system would be able to detect hot Jupiters transiting in front of stars as faint as magnitude sixteen and could also detect smaller planets in close-in period around brighter stars. Our estimations, based on results of previous surveys are an average of 6 detections per 60 days survey. Compared to existing surveys, this excellent yield is due to the nearly-continuous phase coverage and excellent seiing. This short term project is meant to be a photometric qualifyer for the site and the first stage of a massive detection campaign. A mid-term objective of 1000 detections for 2012 could be achieved either with many small telescopes or with a large Schmidt telescope with a large field of view. 
The project is relatively simple and cost-effective, and has the double purpose of qualifying the site and obtaining first-class scientific results. Our team is already familiar with transit detection with an automated telescope (BEST) and cold temperature qualification.

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