Wide angle search for extrasolar planets by the transit method
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The transit method is considered to be one of the most promising for discovering extrasolar planets. However, the method requires photometric precision of better than ∼ 1%. If we are able to achieve this kind of accuracy, then we are set to discover extrasolar planets. The uniqueness of my experiment will lead to the discovery of transiting planets around the brightest and most important stars quicker than the competitors in the field. The importance of the transit method stems from being able to supply many more planetary parameters than other methods, which plays a crucial role in testing planet formation theories. This thesis is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter provides a general background about transits and their theory. We discuss other methods of extrasolar planet detection, recent developments, future space missions, and what we have learned so far about properties of hot Jupiters. The second chapter details the theory of signals and noise on CCDs followed by the design of the PASS0 experiment. The third chapter reports on the difference imaging data pipeline that we developed and applied to a set of PASS0 data to search for transiting planets. The fourth chapter shows how we apply the PASS0 pipeline to SuperWASP data and improve on the accuracy obtained with their aperture photometry pipeline. The fifth chapter reports on the search for variable stars from the PASS0 and SuperWASP data sets that we consider in this thesis. In the sixth chapter we perform a transit search on the PASS0 and SuperWASP data sets and report the results. In the seventh chapter we use the PASS0 pipeline to process a full season of observing data from 2007 for two recent planet discoveries, WASP-7b and WASP-8b, that have not yet been announced. We analyse their lightcurves and predict their radii. Finally we conclude in the eighth chapter.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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