|Location(s)||Paranal Observatory, Teide Observatory, Chile, Spain|
|Organization||European Southern Observatory|
University of Liège
|Telescope style||astronomical survey|
|Number of telescopes||5|
|Diameter||1 m (3 ft 3 in)|
|Related media on Wikimedia Commons|
SPECULOOS (Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) is a project consisting of SPECULOOS Southern Observatory (SSO) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile and SPECULOOS Northern Observatory (SNO) at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife.
The SSO consists of four Ritchey–Chrétien telescopes of 1-metre primary aperture, made by ASTELCO. Each telescope is equipped with a NTM-1000 robotic mount and will search for Earth-sized exoplanets around 1000 ultra-cool stars and brown dwarfs. As of June 2019, the SNO consists of one telescope, but more might be added in the future with up to three telescopes for SNO. SPECULOOS is complemented by SAINT-EX and TRAPPIST.
Ultra-cool dwarf stars and brown dwarfs have a small radius, causing the transits caused by planets to be deeper. This allows the detection of terrestrial planets around these dwarfs, which are predicted to be common around brown dwarfs. The TRAPPIST-1 system showed that ultra-cool dwarfs form terrestrial planets in the habitable zone. For brown dwarfs it was predicted that 175 of these objects need to be monitored to find one system with transiting planets.
During the survey operation each telescope will observe one target for about 10 nights. This kind of observation is optimized for each target to find exoplanets in the habitable zone. To observe 500 targets in the southern hemisphere 1200 nights or 5 years are needed. The continuous observation of one target is needed to find these exoplanets in the habitable zone around ultra-cool dwarf stars. Such planets are expected to have a short transit duration, which can be small as 15 minutes.
The system of SPECULOOS - South (SSO) comprises four telescopes called Europa, Io, Callisto, and Ganymede. The telescopes are named after the Galilean moons that orbit the planet Jupiter, the most massive planet in the solar system. The first telescope (Europa) saw its first light in April 2017. The second telescope (Io) began operations in October 2017. As of December 2019, all SPECULOOS - South telescopes are operational. ESO released first light images of SPECULOOS - South on the 2018-12-05. The telescopes did take images of the Carina Nebula, the Horsehead Nebula and the spiral galaxy Messier 83. Artemis is the first telescope for SPECULOOS - North (SNO) it began operations on June 20, 2019.
The robotic observations of each of the four telescopes is controlled by the program ACP Expert. Each telescope is equipped with an Andor Peltier-cooled deeply depleted 2k × 2k CCD camera and the telescopes have a 12 × 12 arcminutes field of view.
The four 1 m-diameter telescopes will be equipped with cameras sensitive in the near-infrared, the wavelength range in which ultra-cool stars and brown dwarfs emit most of their light. The detectors are optimized for 700 to 1000 μm wavelength, to observe ultracool dwarfs with a J-band magnitude of 14 or brighter at good seeing conditions.
SPECULOOS involves scientists from the University of Liège (Belgium), the University of Birmingham (UK), the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge (UK), the University of Bern (Swiss), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and the King Abdulaziz University (Saudi Arabia), under the leadership of Michaël Gillon of the University of Liège. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) supports and hosts the SPECULOOS Southern Observatory (SSO) at the Paranal Observatory.
As with the other space observation projects of the University of Liège like TRAPPIST, the name Search for habitable Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars makes up a backronym referring to the traditional Belgian spiced biscuit known as Speculoos.