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LCO Instrument Vital to the Discovery of Two Super-Earths

Sep 16, 2022

Artist’s rendition of exoplanet discovery. Image credit: Astrobiology Center/MuSCAT team.

The discovery of two “Super-Earth” temperate exoplanets orbiting a small cool star was announced last week by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. This exciting discovery involved follow-up optical telescope observations to transits observed by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). TESS found a periodic dimming of a star and announced it as a transiting planet candidate in July 2021.

This discovery was made possible by international collaboration between ground-based telescopes, including the SPECULOOS team led by researchers at the University of Liège and a Japanese TESS follow-up team from the University of Tokyo and Astrobiology Center.

The Japanese TESS follow-up team led by Norio Narita observed one exoplanet with the 4-color simultaneous camera MuSCAT3 installed on the Las Cumbres Observatory 2-m Faulkes Telescope North at the Haleakala Observatory, Maui, and the InfraRed Doppler instrument (IRD) installed on the Subaru Telescope on Maunakea, Hawai`i Island, and confirmed the discovery by October 2021.

When the data from the SPECULOOS team could not narrow down the orbital period of the second planet candidate, the MuSCAT team collaborated with the SPECULOOS team to follow-up on the second candidate with MuSCAT3 and confirmed the orbital period in January 2022.

Further study of these two exoplanets will require investigation of their atmospheres. This is an ideal candidate for observations by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This piece by Forbes describes the fascinating future investigation of the two exoplanets.

LCO is thrilled to be part of this significant astronomical discovery. Dr. Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, Director of Las Cumbres Observatory, is looking forward to future discoveries assisted by two MuSCAT instruments at LCO. “MuSCAT3 on Haleakala was designed for just this type of investigation. The Astrobiology Center is building a clone of MuSCAT3, to be known as MuSCAT4, which will be available in early 2024 on the Las Cumbres Observatory 2-m Faulkes Telescope South at the Siding Spring Observatory. LCO is grateful to the Heising-Simons Foundation for providing a grant that will fund the new instrument.”

The MuSCAT3 multi-channel camera, shown before it shipped from Tokyo in the summer of 2020, was installed on the LCO 2m telescope at Haleakala Observatory.


The MuSCAT3 multi-channel camera, shown before it shipped from Tokyo in the summer of 2020, was installed on the LCO 2-m telescope at Haleakala Observatory.

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