Searching for Life in the Solar System ... And Beyond

A Research Discussion Meeting
London, UK - 31 October 1996

An Invitation for Exo-Planet Work Collaboration

Carlos Eiroa (U Madrid, Spain) and Alan Penny, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon

Collaboration for the Canary Island International Time

1. International Time Proposals

The Canary Islands Observatories have a program which offers 5% of all observing time (18 days/nights per year per telescope) to large programs. This is open to astronomers from 17 European countries. Some funding is also available for travel and meetings.

We would like to explore if you are interested in discussing if such a proposal can be made for a program on characterizing planetary systems.

As an example of what we are thinking, such a program could include:-

2. Discussion

Since the discovery last year of a Jupiter-like planet around 51 Peg, observational studies of exoplanetary systems and related topics, e.g. the Vega phenomenon, protoplanetary disks, etc., are being encouraged in different observatories around the world.

As a major part of the program of the the Darwin infrared interferometer will be the detection and characterization of Earth-like planets, the Darwin project will benefit significantly from ground-based observational studies on topics related to planetary systems. Such ground-based studies could in fact be viewed as precursor scientific missions to Darwin.

As an example of this type of planning, you are probably aware of the decision by NASA to use the Keck telescopes for investigations within this research area.

Bearing this in mind, Europeans - and more concretely particularly Darwin supporters and sympathizers - have a good opportunity, by using the Canary Islands Observatories, to contribute and even to lead this "new" area in Astronomy.

3. Details of the IT Program

The International Scientific Committee of the Canary Islands Observatories offers 5% of observing time (which means 18 days/nights per year) to astronomers of 17 European countries. The aim of the IT Programme is to encourage large-scale scientific projects of the highest quality, which concentrate on a single astronomical investigation. Details of the Programme can be read in the web page "", under "CCI". The postscript file is also enclosed at the end of this message.

European Union funds are available to cover costs of observing runs and an international meeting to discuss the output scientific results. Astronomers who are not from the 17 countries can participate in the proposal, but are not eligible for EU funding.

6 of the "night-telescopes", ranging from 1 to 4.2 m apertures, and 4 of the solar telescopes are available for the IT programme. Instruments include CCD imaging cameras, several spectrographs with low, intermediate and high resolution capabilities, multiobject spectrograph, near-IR camera with adaptive optics option.

Proposals for the IT Programme are submitted once per year. The deadline for the 1997 cycle is already passed and it has been 31 July. So, it is expected that proposals for the 1998 cycle will have a similar deadline, i.e. 31 July 1997.

4. This suggestion

Darwin supporters could take advantage of this possibility and try to make an attractive scientific project, probably focussed as a Darwin precursor. A list of topics in such a project, general keyword planetary system studies, could be:

More concrete topics, observing modes, required instruments and telescopes will need to be identified.

In order to asses the number of people who are interested in participating in such a project, we attach a short form with questions addressing some points. Depending on the number of positive answers by individuals and/or groups we will continue promoting an IT Programme devoted to planetary system studies.

We would appreciate it very much if you return the form of interest and distribute it among your colleagues to the e-mail address,

No later than 15th November.

Carlos Eiroa ([email protected])
Alan Penny ([email protected])





E-mail address:

1) I would be interested in participating in such a project       Y/N

2) I would be mainly interested in the subtopic(s):

       Search and study of planets around nearby stars            Y/N
       Studies of Beta Pic Disks and Vega phenomenon              Y/N
       Studies of protoplanetary systems around T Tau stars       Y/N
       Studies of solid bodies around HAEBE stars                 Y/N
       Other(s)  (please specify):
3) I would be willing to take part in e-mail discussions on       Y/N
   the proposal.

4) I would be interested in participating in the followings 

       Writing the proposal                                       Y/N
       Selecting targets                                          Y/N
       Observing                                                  Y/N
       Reducing data                                              Y/N
       Analysing data                                             Y/N
       Other(s)  (please specify)                                 Y/N
4) I would be willing to attend preparatory meeting(s) to         Y/N
   discuss and prepare the proposal