The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have established a partnership for exoplanet research in response to the recommendation of the Astro2010 Decadal Survey that "NASA and NSF should support an aggressive program of ground-based high-precision radial velocity surveys of nearby stars in order to validate and characterize exoplanet candidates."

This NASA-NSF Exoplanet Observational Research (NN-EXPLORE) partnership will take advantage of the full National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) share of the 3.5-m Wisconsin, Indiana, Yale, and NOAO (WIYN) telescope on Kitt Peak to provide the community with the tools and access to conduct ground-based observations that advance exoplanet science, with particular emphasis on Kepler, K2, and (eventually) TESS follow-up observations and on observations that inform future NASA missions, such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope – Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (WFIRST) mission.

NN-EXPLORE includes observing nights on radial velocity facilities in the southern hemisphere including SMARTS/Chiron, AAT/Veloce and MINERVA-Australis.

NN-EXPLORE is implemented in two stages:

Stage 1 – Pre-commissioning (through 2019)

EPDS Instrument Development

The cornerstone of the NN-EXPLORE partnership will be a new NASA-funded Extreme Precision Doppler Spectrometer (EPDS). The EPDS instrument will be installed as a facility-class instrument on the 3.5-m WIYN telescope, and it will be made available to the scientific community through the NOAO time allocation committee (TAC) process.

NASA has selected Penn State to develop a facility-class extreme precision Doppler spectrometer (EPDS) for the WIYN telescope with the goal of commissioning in 2019.

Guest Observer (GO) Program

Simultaneous with the instrument development, NASA will manage an exoplanet-targeted Guest Observer program including existing instrumentation using NOAO share (40%, approximately 100 nights per year) of WIYN time.

Stage 2 Post-commissioning (Starting in 2019)

After the EPDS instrument is commissioned in 2019, the partnership will exploit the new asset and the time available on WIYN telescope to support NASA missions such as Kepler, K2, and TESS. With the focus on science observations, NASA will

  • Manage an exoplanet-targeted GO and guaranteed time program at WIYN with EPDS instrument and existing instrumentation on WIYN
  • Maintain a data management system to serve EPDS data products and make them available to the community.
  • Provide open community access to a cutting edge EPDS instrument for observations that support NASA missions.

NN-EXPLORE Points of Contact

Dr. Douglas Hudgins
Exoplanet Exploration Program Scientist
Astrophysics Division
Science Mission Directorate
NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC 20546-0001
Tel: 202-358-0988

Dr. James Neff
Program Director Division of Astronomical Sciences National Science Foundation
201 Wilson Blvd., Suite 1045
Arlington, VA 22230
Tel: 703-292-2475

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