Developing a ground-based search system for transits of extrasolar planets


The search for extrasolar planets is a relatively new field in astronomical and astrophysical sciences that was boosted by the first discovery of the exoplanet 51 Peg b in 1995 by radial velocity measurements. The short orbital period of 4.2 days determined for this giant exoplanet encouraged the accelerated development of another search method due to the high probability that such a Hot Jupiter planet would cross its host star in the line of sight yielding a photometrically detectable signal during this crossing. This transit method (also known as the occultation or eclipse method) measures such a darkening signal as an evidence for an orbiting planet allowing the determination of the radius of the planet. Combined with the information obtained with radial velocity measurements the mass and the density of the planet can be calculated. This unique opportunity to study detailed physical properties of exoplanets is advantageous compared to planets proven only by other search methods. In this thesis the establishing of the new ground-based transit survey Berlin Exoplanet Search Telescope (BEST) is described. This system consists of a 20cm Schmidt telescope and a CCD camera covering a field of view (FOV) of 3.1ʿ x 3.1ʿ. The set-up and the successful implementation of the BEST system are described in this work. Furthermore the developed strategies for the photometric observations, the calibration and analysis of the data, follow-up observations and their optimization are commented. During the 2-year observational campaign (2001-2003) from the Thüringer Landessternwarte (TLS) Tautenburg, Germany, three target fields were observed for 90 nights ...
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