Three members of the APACHE tribe will participate next week to the Second Workshop Extreme Precision Radial Velocities, at the Yale University.This a very important meeting for all the exoplanet hunter community, as testified by the large number of participants. Among the many topics covered, it will be particularly interesting to listen new experiences from other groups concerning the challenges set by the M-dwarfs beloved by the APACHEs. The atmospheric activity of M-dwarfs, but not only them, can be of big concern for the detection of Keplerian signals due to small-mass planets in the radial velocity time series.
See you in Yale!
We had the pleasure to host in our teepee dr. Luigi Mancini (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, personal web page), research fellow in Exoplanet Science. Luigi (the first on the right in the picture) is involved in several projects aimed at detecting alien planets through the photometric transit method. Therefore, he has many things in common with the Apache! We hope he enjoied our Observatory and the beautiful mountains of the Aosta Valley!
The Apache Project has been presented at the National workshop dedicated to the research on extrasolar planets in Italy, held in Roma on 5-7 November 2014. The meeting was organized in the framework of the National Project WOW. The scientific programme and the slides of the talks can be downloaded here.
Jean Marc Christille, PhD student at the Università degli Studi di Perugia and member of the staff of the APACHE Project, attended the Workshop on Autonomous Observatory Software – RTS2 that took place in Lijiang (China) on 22-26 July 2014, sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Science with several other partner institutions and associations.
Christille was the only speaker from Italy. He held the oral presentation “The APACHE project: cool operational management system for a photometric transit search around cool stars” on Wednesday, July 23, for the Session III “APPLICATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF RTS2″.
The open source observatory manager RTS2, created by the Computer Science researcher Petr Kubanek (Institute of Physics in Prague, Czech Republic), is a proper choice for the high-level software control of the APACHE five-telescope system, including dynamic scheduling of the observations.
Christille was given 50 minutes for his talk. He mostly focused on the hardware and software solutions that have been identified and implemented for the APACHE survey, and also showed some results of the first observing seasons. In addition, he described the work for the future application of RTS2 to the International Telescope Maffei (ITM), a project led by University of Perugia aimed at building and operating an automated telescope at the Concordia Research Station located at Dome C on the Antarctic Plateau. Finally, he depicted the connections of this kind of fundamental science with the Technology Transfer projects of the Research Unit Atlas, based at the OAVdA.
The talk was very appreciated by the participants, with final questions lasting 20 minutes. The presentation (7.8 MB, pdf) can be downloaded here.
Did you know about XO-2b? This hot-Jupiter, discovered in 2007 by Burke et al., orbits its parent star XO-2N which is a component of a wide binary system. The companion star XO-2S is
separated by a projected distance of ~4600 AU, with both stars being almost twins (and similar to our Sun, but older) and sharing an equal proper motion. Thanks to radial velocity measurements collected with the spectrograph HARPS-N at the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the framework of the Italian program GAPS (Global Architecture of Planetary Systems), Desidera et al. discovered a couple of planets orbiting XO-2S, one slightly more massive than Jupiter at 0.48 AU, and a Saturn-mass planet at 0.13 AU. This is the first confirmed case of a wide binary whose components both host planets, one of which is transiting, and this makes the XO-2 system a unique laboratory for understanding the diversity of planetary systems.
As described in the paper, the APACHE survey provided an important contribution to the discovery. Both the bright stars of the XO-2 system were scheduled for a photometric follow-up with one of the APACHE telescopes right after it became clear that XO-2S was orbited by companions of planetary origin. The follow-up aimed to look for possible transits of the inner planet and to attempt a measurement of the star rotation period, a very relevant information necessary to confirm the keplerian nature of the signals found in the radial velocities. The XO-2 field was monitored by APACHE for more than 40 nights and data did not revealed any signal related to spin-axis stellar rotation close to the ~18 days orbital period of the inner planet. It seems that the star is rotating at ~25 days, even if, being a quiet star, the observed photometric modulation could not be related to the rotation of the star. On the other hand, thanks to the APACHE photometry it was possible to measure with high confidence the rotation period of the more active companion XO-2N, which appears to be ~40 days.
It has been a real great pleasure for all the members of the APACHE Project to have two members of the MEarth Project team as guests of the Astronomical Observatory of the Aosta Valley. Prof. David Charbonneau (Harvard University) and Dr. Zach Berta-Thompson (Torres Fellow for Exoplanetary Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) came to visit us and to share their long experience matured after 6 years since the first light of the MEarth telescopes, operating at Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO) on Mount Hopkins (Arizona), with now eight “twins” regularly observing at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) on Cerro Tololo (Chile). It has been a nice and very productive discussion, and we all hope that a strong synergy between the different surveys in the world devoted primarily to the search for planets around M dwarfs could be established in the very near future. Indeed, small telescopes used for observing cool stars are really cool!
The Astronomical Observatory of the Autonomous Region of the Aosta Valley will host the 23rd edition of the Star Party on 2014, September 26-28. This edition will be particularly rich of events for all the amateur astronomers, and a dedicated Web site is available for any information: www.starparty.it
The APACHEs welcome every lover of the starry sky who is interested to participate!
Mario Damasso will attend the meeting Exclimes III – The diversity of planetary atmospheres in Davos (Switzerland). He will present a poster about the APACHE Project, showing some results of the first observing season.
Planets transiting their parent M dwarf are very important targets for studying their atmosphere, and APACHE is expected to provide a relevant contribution in this field by detecting new exoplanets.
As reported few days ago in a very interesting article published on the BBC site, after the M3 candidate mission presentations in Paris, the recommendation to the Science Programme Committee (SPC) has been made: PLATO 2.0 is uniquely proposed for M3 selection. The final decision will be made only in February 19-20, but the community of all the planet hunters can be very optimistic. We invite the Italian astronomical community and all the amateur astronomers to read an interesting article appeared today in the national newspaper Il Sole 24ore.
EChO (Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory) is one of the ESA M3 mission candidates currently assessed for an expected launch in 2022 and it designed for looking at the atmospheres of planets that transit their host star. Extrasolar planets transiting M dwarfs are among the most appealing targets for ECho ad the APACHE survey can contribute significantly in the target selection to be observed from space. In a very recent paper (http://arxiv.org/abs/1401.4611) G. Micela et al. analyse the targets suitable for EChO observations which are expected to result from a sample of present and forthcoming detection surveys, such as APACHE.