Stellar activity masquerading as planets in the habitable zone of the M dwarf Gliese 581

Paul Robertson, Suvrath Mahadevan, Michael Endl, Arpita Roy

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Abstract

The M dwarf star Gliese 581 is believed to host four planets, including one (GJ 581d) near the habitable zone that could possibly support liquid water on its surface if it is a rocky planet. The detection of another habitable-zone planet - GJ 581g - is disputed, as its significance depends on the eccentricity assumed for d. Analyzing stellar activity using the H a line, we measure a stellar rotation period of 130 ± 2 days and a correlation for Ha modulation with radial velocity. Correcting for activity greatly diminishes the signal of GJ 581d (to 1.5 standard deviations) while significantly boosting the signals of the other known super-Earth planets. GJ 581d does not exist, but is an artifact of stellar activity which, when incompletely corrected, causes the false detection of planet g.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-444
Number of pages5
JournalScience
Volume345
Issue number6195
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

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