Ground-based search for the brightest transiting planets with the Multi-site All-Sky CAmeRA: MASCARA
The Multi-site All-sky CAmeRA MASCARA is an instrument concept consisting of several stations across the globe, with each station containing a battery of low-cost cameras to monitor the near-entire sky at each location. Once all stations have been installed, MASCARA will be able to provide a nearly 24-hr coverage of the complete dark sky, down to magnitude 8, at sub-minute cadence. Its purpose is to find the brightest transiting exoplanet systems, expected in the V=4-8 magnitude range - currently not probed by space- or ground-based surveys. The bright/nearby transiting planet systems, which MASCARA will discover, will be the key targets for detailed planet atmosphere observations. We present studies on the initial design of a MASCARA station, including the camera housing, domes, and computer equipment, and on the photometric stability of low-cost cameras showing that a precision of 0.3-1% per hour can be readily achieved. We plan to roll out the first MASCARA station before the end of 2013. A 5-station MASCARA can within two years discover up to a dozen of the brightest transiting planet systems in the sky.