Paths, Roadblocks, and Byways in Detecting Habitable Rocky Planets in Radial Velocity Data

Wed, September 16, 2015

Cips seminar image for website

The synergy between Kepler and the ground-based radial velocity (RV) surveys have made numerous discoveries of low-mass exoplanets, opening the age of Earth analogs. However, Earth analogs such as Kepler 452-b require a much higher RV precision ( ~ 10 cm/s) than the achievable with current instruments (~ 1 m/s) and understanding of stellar photosphere. I will talk about instrumental and data issues that are currently hindering us from achieving the sub 1 m/s precision, as well as remedies and ways forward with future RV instruments. Some highlights of our work include: (1) how telluric contamination affects RV precision and how to “telluric-proof” a Doppler pipeline; (2) how errors in the deconvolved stellar reference spectrum can mimic the signal of a super-Earth on a ~1 year orbit; (3) the battle with imperfections in the iodine reference spectra and how a ultra-high resolution (R ~ 500,000) echelle spectrum can help; (4) and a new RV extraction code in Python which incorporates MCMC and Gaussian Processes. This research is based on radial velocity data taken with iodine cell calibrators using Keck/HIRES and HET/HRS.