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Title: The next generation of transiting exoplanet surveys
Author: McCormac, James John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2742 0523
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis presents the results of the development of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) prototype, the DONUTS autoguiding algorithm and the Near Infrared Transiting ExoplanetS (NITES) telescope on La Palma. Furthermore the NITES telescope was used to conduct a transiting hot Jupiter survey of the globular cluster M71. NGTS is a wide-field photometric survey designed to discover transiting exoplanets of Neptune- size and smaller around bright stars (magnitude V<13). The results from the prototyping phase have shown that the system is capable of performing photometry at the 1 millimagnitude level in < 900 seconds for the brightest stars and is relatively free from systematic noise. NGTS will sample more than 5 times the number of bright stars as Kepler in this range and will find the brightest Neptune and super-Earth sized transiting exoplanets, prime targets for characterisation using VL T, ELT and JWST. M71 was monitored for 47 nights during the summer of 2011 looking for transiting hot Jupiters. Of the ~4000 stars observed ~1000 lie on the main sequence and were observed with sufficient photometric accuracy for a planet search. We had a 19% chance of finding 1 giant planet but found 0, finding 17 new variable stars and refining the periods of a further 7 previously known variables in the process. Our new autoguiding algorithm DONUTS, designed to autoguide on science images and defocused stars is described along with its on and off sky testing. Tests have shown that the algorithm performs remarkably well and the main limitation to this method of guiding is the telescope mount. DONUTS is currently running at the NITES telescope and will soon be deployed at the NGTS facility and the 1 m SuperWASP Qatar Telescope (SQT).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available