This project, which is called the Transit Ephemeris Refinement and Monitoring Survey (TERMS), will determine improved orbital information in order to provide more accurate transit windows for intermediate-to-long-period planets with subsequent observational follow-up at the predicted transit times. High precision radial-velocity and photometric measurements of the newly identified exoplanets will be used to determine planetary composition and test models of planetary formation. The PI and his collaborators will focus on long-period (P > 20 days) planets, which have been excluded from most other studies due to a bias toward shorter periods (due to observational constraints).
Transiting planets have orbital inclinations which cause them to appear to pass in front of their host star, and thus temporarily block some of the starlight. Transits provide special opportunities to measure the relative radii and masses of planets compared to the host star, which is useful to determining planetary density and composition. This project will result in measurements of a group of exoplanets for which very little is known ? namely, cooler and less-massive planets that are farther from their host star. This will provide an important balance to exoplanet databases, which are currently heavy with ?hot Jupiters,? which to now have been easier to observe, and provide more opportunities to observe planets which are closer to Jupiter and Saturn in our solar system. Additionally, the ephemeris data and light-curves provided will be useful to other astronomers in the community.