The CARMENES search for exoplanets around M dwarfs. Benchmarking the impact of activity in high-precision radial velocity measurements

Jeffers, S. V.; Barnes, J. R.; Schöfer, P.; Quirrenbach, A.; Zechmeister, M.; Amado, P. J.; Caballero, J. A.; Fernández, M.; Rodríguez, E.; Ribas, I.; Reiners, A.; Cardona Guillén, C.; Cifuentes, C.; Czesla, S.; Hatzes, A. P.; Kürster, M.; Montes, D.; Morales, J. C.; Pedraz, S.; Sadegi, S.
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Astronomy and Astrophysics

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Context. Current exoplanet surveys using the radial velocity (RV) technique are targeting M dwarfs because any habitable zone terrestrial-mass planets will induce a high RV and orbit on shorter periods than for more massive stars. One of the main caveats is that M dwarfs show a wide range of activity levels from inactive to very active, which can induce an asymmetry in the line profiles and, consequently, a spurious RV measurement.
Aims: We aim to benchmark the impact of stellar activity on high-precision RV measurements using regular-cadence CARMENES visible and near-infrared observations of the active M3.5 dwarf EV Lac.
Methods: We used the newly developed technique of low-resolution Doppler imaging to determine the centre-of-light, or spot-induced RV component, for eight observational epochs.
Results: We confirm a statistically significant and strong correlation between the independently measured centre-of-light and the chromatic index, which is a measure of the amplitude variation with wavelength of the RVs. We also find circular "closed-loop" relations of several activity indices with RV for a subset of data that covers only several rotation periods. We also investigate the implications of large phase gaps in the periodograms of activity indicators. Finally, by removing the spot-induced RV component we improve the planet-mass sensitivity by a factor of at least three.
Conclusions: We conclude that for active M stars, a regular-cadence observing strategy is the most efficient way to identify and eliminate sources of correlated noise.
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