The MINiature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array (MINERVA) is an array of small-aperture robotic telescopes outfitted for both photometry and high-resolution spectroscopy located at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory at Mt. Hopkins, Arizona. It is the first U.S. observatory dedicated to exoplanetary science capable of both precise radial velocity and transit studies. The multi-telescope concept is implemented to either observe separate targets or a single target with a larger effective aperture. The flexibility of the observatory maximizes scientific potential and also provides ample opportunities for education and public outreach. The design and implementation of MINERVA is carried out by professors, research associates, postdocs, and students at all levels at Harvard, University of Montana, Penn State, University of New South Wales, Caltech, UPenn, and University of Missouri.
The primary science goal of MINERVA is to discover Earth-like planets in close-in (less than 50-day) orbits around nearby stars, and super-Earths (3-15 times the mass of Earth) in the habitable zones of the closest Sun-like stars. The secondary goal will be to look for transits (eclipses) of known and newly-discovered extrasolar planets, which provide information about the radii and interior structures of the planets. This second goal uses the proven method used by the Kepler Mission, and the unique design of the MINERVA observatory allows us to pursue both goals simultaneously.