ARTEMiS (Automated Robotic Terrestrial Exoplanet Microlensing Search): a possible expert-system based cooperative effort to hunt for planets of Earth mass and below

Dominik, M.; Horne, K.; Allan, A.; Rattenbury, N.J.; Tsapras, Y.; Snodgrass, C.; Bode, M. F.; Burgdorf, M. J.; Fraser, S. N.; Kerins, E.; Mottram, C. J.; Steele, I. A.; Street, R. A.; Wheatley, P. J. and Wyrzykowski, Ł. (2008). ARTEMiS (Automated Robotic Terrestrial Exoplanet Microlensing Search): a possible expert-system based cooperative effort to hunt for planets of Earth mass and below. Astronomische Nachrichten, 329(3) pp. 248–251.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/asna.200710928

Abstract

The technique of gravitational microlensing is currently unique in its ability to provide a sample of terrestrial exoplanets around both Galactic disk and bulge stars, allowing to measure their abundance and determine their distribution with respect to mass and orbital separation. Thus, valuable information for testing models of planet formation and orbital migration is gathered, constituting an important piece in the puzzle for the existence of life forms throughout the Universe. In order to achieve these goals in reasonable time, a well-coordinated effort involving a network of either 2m or 4×1m telescopes at each site is required. It could lead to the first detection of an Earth-mass planet outside the Solar system, and even planets less massive than Earth could be discovered. From April 2008, ARTEMiS (Automated Robotic Terrestrial Exoplanet Microlensing Search) is planned to provide a platform for a three-step strategy of survey, follow-up, and anomaly monitoring. As an expert system embedded in eSTAR (e-Science Telescopes for Astronomical Research), ARTEMiS will give advice for follow-up based on a priority algorithm that selects targets to be observed in order to maximize the expected number of planet detections, and will also alert on deviations from ordinary microlensing light curves by means of the SIGNALMEN anomaly detector. While the use of the VOEvent (Virtual Observatory Event) protocol allows a direct interaction with the telescopes that are part of the HTN (Heterogeneous Telescope Networks) consortium, additional interfaces provide means of communication with all existing microlensing campaigns that rely on human observers. The success of discovering a planet by microlensing critically depends on the availability of a telescope in a suitable location at the right time, which can mean within 10 min. To encourage follow-up observations, microlensing campaigns are therefore releasing photometric data in real time. On ongoing planetary anomalies, world-wide efforts are being undertaken to make sure that sufficient data are obtained, since there is no second chance. Real-time modelling offers the opportunity of live discovery of extra-solar planets, thereby providing “Science live to your home”.

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