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By controlling instrumental errors to below 10 cm s−1, the EXtreme PREcision Spectrograph (EXPRES) allows for a more insightful study of photospheric velocities that can mask weak Keplerian signals. Gaussian processes (GP) have become a standard tool for modeling correlated noise in radial velocity data sets. While GPs are constrained and motivated by physical properties of the star, in some cases they are still flexible enough to absorb unresolved Keplerian signals. We apply GP regression to EXPRES radial velocity measurements of the 3.5 Gyr old chromospherically active Sun-like star, HD 101501. We obtain tight constraints on the stellar rotation period and the evolution of spot distributions using 28 seasons of ground-based photometry, as well as recent Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite data. Light-curve inversion was carried out on both photometry data sets to reveal the spot distribution and spot evolution timescales on the star. We find that the >5 m s−1 rms radial velocity variations in HD 101501 are well modeled with a GP stellar activity model without planets, yielding a residual rms scatter of 45 cm s−1. We carry out simulations, injecting and recovering signals with the GP framework, to demonstrate that high-cadence observations are required to use GPs most efficiently to detect low-mass planets around active stars like HD 101501. Sparse sampling prevents GPs from learning the correlated noise structure and can allow it to absorb prospective Keplerian signals. We quantify the moderate to high-cadence monitoring that provides the necessary information to disentangle photospheric features using GPs and to detect planets around active stars.

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