Speaker: Gabriela Mallen-Ornelas (CfA Clay Fellow)
Title: The EXPLORE Search for Transiting Extrasolar Planets
Abstract: Planet transit searches promise to be the next big step forward n short-period extrasolar planet detection and characterization. Every transiting planet discovered will have a measured radius, and radial velocity observations will lead to an absolute mass measurement. Many transit searches are now ongoing, and the first confirmation of a planet discovered via the transit method was announced in January. I will give an overview of the transit search technique, and will show early results from the EXPLORE Project, a searies of transit searches using wide-field CCD mosaic cameras on 4m-class telescopes. We simultaneously monitor tens of thousands of stars with high photometric precision and 3-minute time sampling, and use the resulting light curves to search for the tell-tale flat-bottomed eclipses caused by transiting planets. We have a pipeline to completely reduce the data in less than a month, which allows same-semester radial-velocity follow-up observations (done as an integral part of the project). The EXPLORE Project started in June 2001, and so far we have several promising planet candidates for which radial-velocity observations have been carried out.