The “Next Generation Transit Search” project (NGTS) will consists of twelve separate small aperture telescopes. Using the experience of past / current surveys the NGTS projects will optimize the photometric precision of the systems. CCD Cameras with fast readout and high electric response will allow to maximize the images per minute. The site at Paranal and a very accurate alignment of the telescopes, allowing the stars to stay on the same pixels, will minimize the sources of correlated noise. Altogether a precision up to one magnitude better than current projects will be achieved. With such high precision the detection of Neptune sized planets will be within reach.
What will be detected
Optimized for stars cooler than the sun, NGTS will be able to detect super-Earth planets around M-dwarfs. Even around a solar like star NGTS will be able to detect planets down to Neptune size. Although with space based telescopes already much smaller planets can be detected, surveys like Kepler and CoRoT only have access to a limited area of the sky and focus on fainter stars. With the twelve telescopes NGTS will find many Neptunes around bright stars (13 > Rmag > 9), allowing for new discoveries and insights for this class of planets. With some luck even smaller planets around bright cool stars will be detected. For now this is the only project that will allow for the detection of such small planets around bright stars.
NGTS will lower the detection limit for ground based surveys, searching for transiting exoplanets. Therefore NGTS will be able to search for Neptune sized or even smaller planets, around bright stars. With space based missions limited to faint stars, and ground based projects limited to Jupiter sized planets, this project is the next step in exoplanet science. During the years to come NGTS will be the only project that can deliver large numbers of targets for transmission spectroscopy with such small radii.
The telescopes will be set up in 2013. First results are expected in 2014. The first working system is online at the Geneva Observatory for testing at the moment.