Tom Kaye's Science at Winer Observatory

Meade LX200 used to
   detect the planet around Tau Boo

Meade LX200 used for Tau Boo campaign Tom Kaye, an amateur astronomer from the Chicago, Illinois area, installed his Tau Boo campaign equipment at our facility in mid-February, 2000. In the above photo, the University of Iowa 0.5-m Iowa Robotic Observatory Telescope is at Position No. 1 (top left), while Tom's Mead LX200 is at Position No. 4 (middle right) of our Sonoita Facility.

Tom used a Meade LX200 16-inch telescope with a custom fiber feed that permitted him to monitor and correct the star position to keep it on the fiber using an SBIG AO-7 "adaptive optics" unit. The custom unit fed the starlight to an optical fiber that transmits the light to a bench spectrograph located in the Winer machine shop.

   spectragraph used to detect the extrasolar planet around Tau Boo The spectrograph used a grating purchased from a grating ruling company and two mirrors purchased from Edmund Scientific for the collimator and the "camera" (visit for more details of the design of the spectragraph) while the rest of the spectragraph was homemade. Tom used granite from a kitchen countertop supplier to build the optical bench and all the optics mounts, taking care to fabricate everything from the same slab of granite for thermal stability. He used a water chiller from a drinking fountain to cool the entire assembly, and the heating element from a drugstore heating pad connected to a very expensive temperature sensor/controller to maintain the temperature of the optical bench within ±1°F throughout an entire evening and within ±3°F during the entire three-week observing run. The optical bench, optical elements, and heating and cooling elements are all contained inside a wooden box, which is itself surrounded by two layers of rigid construction foam insulation.

Daily spectragraph results The daily results from mid-February, 2000 to early March, 2000 are shown on the left. These are corrected for the Earth's rotation about its axis and its orbital motion about the Sun. When these daily results are combined into a single-phase plot, the result is a better than 3-sigma detection of the extra-solar planet in orbit about Tau Boo that agrees remarkably well with the results obtained by Marcy and Butler using the Keck 10-m telescope.

Results for the 3-week run After another run in April and May 2004 to obtain confirming results, Tom and his colleagues published a paper with their results: Kay, T.G., Vanaverbeke, S., and Innis, J., High-precision radial-velocity measurement with a small telescope: Detection of the tau Boötis exoplanet, J. Br. Astron. Assoc. 116, 2, pp. 78-83.

Page last updated on: December 6, 2013