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The APF Fifty: A Robotic Search for Earth’s Nearest Neighbors

February 9, 2017

When: February 9, 2017 3:30AM

BJ Fulton

University of Hawaii

We are conducting a Doppler survey of a magnitude-limited sample of 51 nearby, chromospherically inactive, G and K dwarfs using the Automated Planet Finder (APF) telescope. This APF-50 survey is sensitive to planets with masses as low as 2-3 times the mass of the Earth and will measure small planet occurrence in the solar neighborhood. We expect to measure details of the planet mass function and to identify the nearby stars hosting low-mass planetary systems that will be the likely targets of follow-up measurements. We employ the robotic APF telescope to monitor the stars at high cadence for the duration of the survey. It builds on the Eta-Earth Survey at Keck Observatory, but with improved Doppler precision due to the high observing cadence and a larger number of measurements. We will measure the occurrence rate and mass function of small planets in our local neighborhood using the new planets discovered by the APF-50 survey and the set of planets already known to orbit stars in our sample. Combining the mass function from this survey with the size distribution from Kepler, we will probe the density and core mass properties of super-Earths to inform formation theories of the galaxy's most abundant planets.

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