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VIO Research Grants: Past Recipients

Built it and Now They Come: Using the Newly Constructed
KELT Telescope in South Africa for Exoplanet Discovery (Category B)

PI: Keivan Stassun, Associate Professor of Astronomy; Director, Vanderbilt Data-Intensive Astrophysics; Co-Director, Fisk-Vanderbilt MA-PhD Bridge Program

Department/School: Physics & Astronomy, College of Arts and Science

Partner: University of Cape Town


Description: The discovery of planets around other stars in the mid-1990’s ushered in a completely new field in astronomy. Most of the planets discovered to date have been detected by their gravitational influence. A more fruitful technique for learning more about the planets themselves is the transit method, in which millions of stars are monitored over the course of months or years, and astronomers search for stars whose light briefly dims in a way that indicates that it was periodically eclipsed by a planet. The power of the transit method is magnified in cases where the planet’s host star is especially bright. KELT-South, which stands for stands for Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope, will search the brightest stars for transiting planets, which will be the most scientifically valuable of all extrasolar planets. KELT-South was constructed at Vanderbilt and has been installed at its final location in Sutherland, South Africa. The placement of KELT-South in South Africa provides a vantage point for searching for planets around stars that are only seen from the Southern hemisphere.

The purpose of this grant is to move from the purely data-gathering phase of the project to start working on identifying candidate planets in the KELT-South data.