California Institute of Technology

MINERVA

Website: Project MINERVA

MINERVA will be an array of small-aperture robotic telescopes to be built atop Palomar Mountain outfitted for both photometry and high-resolution spectroscopy. It will be the first U.S. observatory dedicated to exoplanetary science capable of both precise radial velocimetry and transit studies. The multi-telescope concept will be implemented to either observe separate targets or a single target with a larger effective aperture. The flexibility of the observatory will maximize scientific potential and also provide ample opportunities for education and public outreach. The design and implementation of MINERVA will be carried out by postdoctoral and student researchers at Caltech.

Project Status

The development and implementation of MINERVA will take place in 4 stages. The project is currently in the conceptual design stage. Selection of hardware components are being finalized as well as designs for the telescope enclosures, spectrometer structure, and fiber acquisition unit. A survey on Palomar Mountain is now underway to determine the optimal site for the project in consideration of the primary science goals and environmental impact.

Full Assembly

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Project elements include:

Science Program 1: Detect low-mass planets orbiting bright, nearby stars using nightly, high-precision (~1 m/s) radial velocimetry.
Science Program 2: Detect low-mass, transiting exoplanets.
Science Program 3: Highly precise light curves for newly discovered transiting exoplanets.
Science Program 4: High cadence follow-up radial velociy and photometric observations of known multi-planet systems.
EPO Program 1: New observational lab courses at host institutions.
EPO Program 2: Summer Undergraduate Research Programs.
EPO Program 3: Mulit-Institution E/PO involvement.

Partnership

MINERVA is a partnership between Caltech, Penn State and University of Montana.

Project Team

John Johnson (Caltech): Principal Investigator
Jason Wright (PSU): Co-Investigator
Phil Muirhead (Caltech): Co-Investigator
Nate McCrady (UM): Co-Investigator
Jon Swift (Caltech): Project manager
Michael Bottom (Caltech): Implementation
Kristina Hogstrom (Caltech): Telescope control and robotics
Monica He (Caltech undergrad): Site development
Paul Gardner (Caltech): Engineer
Richard Dekany (Caltech): Systems engineer
Dan McKenna (Caltech): Site manager
Ming Zhao (PSU): Transit specialist