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Published November 2019 | public
Journal Article Open

Minerva-Australis. I. Design, Commissioning, and First Photometric Results


The Minerva-Australis telescope array is a facility dedicated to the follow-up, confirmation, characterization, and mass measurement of planets orbiting bright stars discovered by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)—a category in which it is almost unique in the Southern Hemisphere. It is located at the University of Southern Queensland's Mount Kent Observatory near Toowoomba, Australia. Its flexible design enables multiple 0.7 m robotic telescopes to be used both in combination, and independently, for high-resolution spectroscopy and precision photometry of TESS transit planet candidates. Minerva-Australis also enables complementary studies of exoplanet spin–orbit alignments via Doppler observations of the Rossiter–McLaughlin effect, radial velocity searches for nontransiting planets, planet searches using transit timing variations, and ephemeris refinement for TESS planets. In this first paper, we describe the design, photometric instrumentation, software, and science goals of Minerva-Australis, and note key differences from its Northern Hemisphere counterpart, the Minerva array. We use recent transit observations of four planets, WASP-2b, WASP-44b, WASP-45b, and HD 189733b, to demonstrate the photometric capabilities of Minerva-Australis.

Additional Information

© 2019 The Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Received 2018 October 27; accepted 2019 January 30; published 2019 September 26. This research was supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project DP180100972). Minerva-Australis hardware is funded in part by the Australian government through the Australian Research Council, LIEF grants LE160100001. We acknowledge support from the Mount Cuba Astronomical Foundation. H.Z. is also grateful to the support from the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC grants 11673011, 11333002). P.P. acknowledges support from the the National Science Foundation (Astronomy and Astrophysics grant 1716202) and George Mason University start-up funds. The MINERVA in the Northern hemisphere, which laid the groundwork for our installation, is made possible by generous contributions from its collaborating institutions and Mt. Cuba Astronomical Foundation, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (EPSCOR grant NNX13AM97A), The Australian Research Council (LIEF grant LE140100050), and the National Science Foundation (grants 1516242 and 1608203). MINERVA hardware has been partially funded by the Australian Research Council's Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities funding scheme (project LE140100050). We are grateful to the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for their generous funding of MINERVA hardware and personnel.

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August 19, 2023
August 19, 2023