Measuring precise radial velocities and cross-correlation function line-profile variations using a Skew Normal density★
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Helsinki,
2 Observatoire de Genève, Université de Genève, 51 ch. des Maillettes, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
3 Department of Statistics and Data Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
Accepted: 29 November 2018
Context. Stellar activity is one of the primary limitations to the detection of low-mass exoplanets using the radial-velocity (RV) technique. Stellar activity can be probed by measuring time-dependent variations in the shape of the cross-correlation function (CCF). It is therefore critical to measure with high-precision these shape variations to decorrelate the signal of an exoplanet from spurious RV signals caused by stellar activity.
Aims. We propose to estimate the variations in shape of the CCF by fitting a Skew Normal (SN) density which, unlike the commonly employed Normal density, includes a Skewness parameter to capture the asymmetry of the CCF induced by stellar activity and the convective blueshift.
Methods. We compared the performances of the proposed method to the commonly employed Normal density using both simulations and real observations with different levels of activity and signal-to-noise ratios.
Results. When considering real observations, the correlation between the RV and the asymmetry of the CCF and between the RV and the width of the CCF are stronger when using the parameters estimated with the SN density rather than those obtained with the commonly employed Normal density. In particular, the strongest correlations have been obtained when using the mean of the SN as an estimate for the RV. This suggests that the CCF parameters estimated using a SN density are more sensitive to stellar activity, which can be helpful when estimating stellar rotational periods and when characterizing stellar activity signals. Using the proposed SN approach, the uncertainties estimated on the RV defined as the median of the SN are on average 10% smaller than the uncertainties calculated on the mean of the Normal. The uncertainties estimated on the asymmetry parameter of the SN are on average 15% smaller than the uncertainties measured on the Bisector Inverse Slope Span (BIS SPAN), which is the commonly used parameter to evaluate the asymmetry of the CCF. We also propose a new model to account for stellar activity when fitting a planetary signal to RV data. Based on simple simulations, we were able to demonstrate that this new model improves the planetary detection limits by 12% compared to the model commonly used to account for stellar activity.
Conclusions. The SN density is a better model than the Normal density for characterizing the CCF since the correlations used to probe stellar activity are stronger and the uncertainties of the RV estimate and the asymmetry of the CCF are both smaller.
Key words: stars: activity / techniques: radial velocities / methods: data analysis
Based on observations collected at the La Silla Parana Observatory, ESO (Chile), with the HARPS spectrograph at the 3.6-m telescope.
Branco Weiss Fellow-Society in Science (http://www.society-in-science.org)
© ESO 2019