Miniature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array (MINERVA) I. Design, Commissioning, and First Science Results
Swift et al
The MINiature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array (MINERVA) is a US-based observational facility dedicated to the discovery and characterization of exoplanets around a nearby sample of bright stars. MINERVA employs a robotic array of four 0.7 m telescopes outfitted for both high-resolution spectroscopy and photometry, and is designed for completely autonomous operation. The primary science program is a dedicated radial velocity survey and the secondary science objective is to obtain high precision transit light curves. The modular design of the facility and the flexibility of our hardware allows for both science programs to be pursued simultaneously, while the robotic control software provides a robust and efficient means to carry out nightly observations. In this article, we describe the design of MINERVA including major hardware components, software, and science goals. The telescopes and photometry cameras are characterized at our test facility on the Caltech campus in Pasadena, CA, and their on-sky performance is validated. New observations from our test facility demonstrate sub-mmag photometric precision of one of our radial velocity survey targets, and we present new transit observations and fits of WASP-52b -- a known hot-Jupiter with an inflated radius and misaligned orbit. The facility is now in the process of being relocated to its final destination at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona, and science operations will begin in 2015.