Looking towards the detection of exoearths with SuperWASP
The WASP consortium is conducting an ultra-wide field survey of stars between 8–15 mag from both hemispheres. Our primary science goal is to detect extra-solar ‘hot-Jupiter’-type planets that eclipse (or transit) bright host stars and for which further detailed investigation will be possible. We summarize the design of the SuperWASP instruments and describe the first results from our northern station SW-N, sited in La Palma, Canary Islands. Our second station, which began operations this year, is located at the South African Astronomical Observatory. Between April and September, 2004, SW-N continuously observed ~6.7 million stars. The consortium's custom-written, fully automated data reduction pipeline has been used to process these data, and the information is now stored in the project archive, held by the Leicester database and archive service (LEDAS). We have applied a sophisticated, automated algorithm to identify the low-amplitude (~0.01 mag), brief (~few hours) signatures of transiting exoplanets. In addition, we have assessed each candidate in the light of all available catalogue information in order to reject data artefacts and astrophysical false positive detections. The highest priority candidates are currently being subjected to further observations in order to select the true planets. Once the exoplanets are confirmed, a host of exciting opportunities are open to us. In this paper, we describe two techniques that exploit the transits in order to detect other objects within the same system. The first involves determining precise epochs for a sequence of transit events in order to detect the small timing variations caused by the gravitational pull of other planets in the same system. The second method employs ultra-high precision photometry of the transits to detect the deviations caused by the presence of exoplanetary moons. Both of these techniques are capable of detecting objects the size of terrestrial planets.(Published Online September 18 2006)
(Received June 26 2006)
(Accepted August 6 2006)
Key Words: Extra-solar planets; planetary transits.