All four MINERVA telescopes, plus the MINERVA Red telescope located at FLWO taken during commissioning in May 2015. Credit: J. Eastman.

A dedicated exoplanet observatory

The MINiature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array (MINERVA) is an array of small-aperture robotic telescopes outfitted for both photometry and high-resolution spectroscopy located at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory at Mt. Hopkins, Arizona. It is the first U.S. observatory dedicated to exoplanetary science capable of both precise radial velocity and transit studies. The multi-telescope concept is implemented to either observe separate targets or a single target with a larger effective aperture. The flexibility of the observatory maximizes scientific potential and also provides ample opportunities for education and public outreach. The design and implementation of MINERVA is carried out by professors, research associates, postdocs, and students at all levels at Harvard, University of Montana, Penn State, University of New South Wales, Caltech, UPenn, and University of Missouri.

Science Objectives

The primary science goal of MINERVA is to discover Earth-like planets in close-in (less than 50-day) orbits around nearby stars, and super-Earths (3-15 times the mass of Earth) in the habitable zones of the closest Sun-like stars. The secondary goal will be to look for transits (eclipses) of known and newly-discovered extrasolar planets, which provide information about the radii and interior structures of the planets. This second goal uses the proven method used by the Kepler Mission, and the unique design of the MINERVA observatory allows us to pursue both goals simultaneously.

Project Status

MINERVA began regular science operations at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory for imaging in May 2015. The spectrograph was delivered in Dec 2015.

Refereed Publications

M51 taken with an Andor camera mounted on T3 located at FLWO UT 2015-05-07. Credit: T. Beatty

Quick Facts


Full photometric science operations began in May 2015 at FLWO. The spectrograph was installed Dec 2015.


Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory:

-110° 53’ 07.4’’ +31° 41’ 18.2’’


Four PlaneWave CDK700, 0.7m telescopes within 2 custom telescope enclosures designed by LCOGT engineers.


2k x 2k back illuminated CCD with 15µm pixels offering > 20’ f.o.v.


Stabilized, R = 75,000 echelle spectrograph with iodine cell for precise radial velocimetry designed by Callaghan Innovations (formerly KiwiStar Optics).

Team Members:

John Johnson (CfA):

Principal Investigator

Jason Wright (PSU):


Nate McCrady (UM):


Rob Wittenmyer (UNSW):


Jason Eastman (CfA):

Project manager

Michael Bottom (Caltech):


Thomas Beatty (PSU):

Transit specialist

Cullen Blake (UPenn):


David Sliski (UPenn):

MINERVA Red Implementation

Brian Lin (Caltech)

Software engineer

Peter Plavchan (MSU):

Instrument scientist

Sharon Wang (PSU)

Graduate Student

Jimmy Henderson (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Audrey Houghton (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Dennis Price (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Russel Stanbery (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Erik Sandberg (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Yutong Shan (CfA)

Graduate Student

Steve Criswell (CfA):

Site manager

Emilio Falco (CfA):

Observatory Director

Ming Zhao (PSU):

Transit specialist

Reed Riddle (Caltech)

Software engineer

Paul Gardner (Caltech):



Jon Swift (Caltech):

Project Manager

Phil Muirhead (Caltech):

Project scientist

Richard Dekany (Caltech):

Systems engineer

Monica He (Caltech undergrad):

Site development

Forest Chaput de Saintonge (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Erica Hadden (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Chantanelle Nava (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Connor Robinson (UM)

Undergraduate Student

Samson Johnson (UM)

Undergraduate Student