Two telescopes

A Dedicated Exoplanet Observatory

Project MINERVA is a dedicated observatory for exoplanet detection. The array consists of four 0.7-m robotic telescopes outfitted for both high-resolution spectroscopy and precision photometry. The modular multi-telescope concept allows us to observe either separate targets or a single target with a larger effective aperture. The flexibility of the observatory maximizes scientific productivity and provides ample opportunities for education and public outreach. The University of Montana, funded by a NASA EPSCoR grant, owns one of the four telescopes in the MINERVA array. Exoplanet research with MINERVA is carried out by faculty and student researchers at the University of Montana in collaboration with our partner institutions.

Science Objectives

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 is to characterize transits (eclipses) of known and newly-discovered extrasolar planets, which provide information about the radii and interior structures of the planets. The unique design of the MINERVA observatory allows us to pursue both goals simultaneously.

Transformative Research

Two students working on one of the Minerva telescopes               Chani Nava and Sam Johnson

MINERVA represents a substantial increase in the engagement of UM undergraduate students in leading edge astronomical research. MINERVA provides significant new opportunities for active learning and interaction with colleagues from partner institutions. We are training undergraduates on modern instrumentation by incorporating MINERVA research into our advanced observing lab course. In all, 10% of telescope time is dedicated to educational activities. MINERVA research students work on all aspects of exoplanet science, generating publishable original undergraduate research and significantly enhancing the preparation of UM students for graduate study in astronomy.


As public funding of science programs diminishes, private support provides the resources needed to advance scientific frontiers. We are grateful for the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations that recognize the value of astronomical research and education. Donations of cash are the simplest and most direct way to support Minerva. Every gift, no matter what size, is greatly appreciated.

To help support Minerva, complete the Minerva Donation Form and mail it to:

The University of Montana Foundation
PO Box 7159
Missoula, Montana 59807-7159

A formal acknowledgment will be mailed to you.

Quick Facts

minvera project telescope

full assembly view of telescope

All four MINERVA telescopes involved in first light photometric exoplanet science.

Whipple Observatory, Mt Hopkins, AZ

Four 0.7-m PlaneWave CDK700 telescopes.

2k x 2k back-illuminated Andor CCD offering 20' field of view.

R=75,000 thermal stabilized echelle spectrograph with iodine cell for precise radial velocimetry.

University of Montana
Harvard University
Pennsylvania State University
Univ. of New South Wales