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Validating TESS Exoplanet Candidates

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Principle Investigator: Ian Crossfield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Program Summary:

NASA’s TESS mission, launching in early 2018, offers a golden opportunity to find a wide diversity of new planetary systems orbiting bright stars across the entire sky. However, the TESS pixels are 21” for any given TESS target, many stars hide in a single pixel. High-resolution imaging is essential: to identify which star in a TESS pixel is the true planet host; to correct the inferred planet radius by de-blending the discovery photometry (diluted by multiple stars in each aperture); and to study the relationship between stellar multiplicity and short-period planet properties. We request time over the next two years to use Gemini AO (IR) and speckle (optical) imaging to characterize and ultimately validate hundreds of planets from TESS. Our program will focus on candidates whose parameters would imply a better transmission spectroscopy S/N than the best sub-Neptunes discovered by K2 (which are potentially characterizable with just a few HST transits). All else being equal, we will also focus on small planets (R_P < 4 R_Earth) orbiting bright stars, where measured masses will fulfill the TESS Level One requirement.


  • Steve Howell: NASA/Ames
  • David Ciardi: Caltech/IPAC
  • Erica Gonzales: UCSC
  • Rachel Matson: NASA/Ames
  • Elisabeth Matthews: Univ. Exeter
  • Charles Beichman: Caltech/IPAC
  • Joshua Schlieder: NASA/GSFC

Gemini Observatory Participants