Radial velocity measurements of stellar reflex motion have revealed many extrasolar planets, but gaps in the observations produce aliases, spurious frequencies that are frequently confused with the planets' orbital frequencies. In the case of Gl 581 d, the distinction between an alias and the true frequency was the distinction between a frozen, dead planet and a planet possibly hospitable to life. To improve the characterization of planetary systems, we describe how aliases originate and present a new approach for distinguishing between orbital frequencies and their aliases. Our approach harnesses features in the spectral window function to compare the amplitude and phase of predicted aliases with peaks present in the data. We apply it to confirm prior alias distinctions for the planets GJ 876 d and HD 75898 b. We find that the true periods of Gl 581 d and HD 73526 b/c remain ambiguous. We revise the periods of HD 156668 b and 55 Cnc e, which were afflicted by daily aliases. For HD 156668 b, the correct period is 1.2699 days and the minimum mass is (3.1 ± 0.4)M?. For 55 Cnc e, the correct period is 0.7365 days-the shortest of any known planet-and the minimum mass is (8.3 ± 0.3)M⊕. This revision produces a significantly improved five-planet Keplerian fit for 55 Cnc, and a self-consistent dynamical fit describes the data just as well. As radial velocity techniques push to ever-smaller planets, often found in systems of multiple planets, distinguishing true periods from aliases will become increasingly important.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science