Precision radial velocities of 15 M5-M9 dwarfs

J. R. Barnes, J. S. Jenkins, H. R.A. Jones, S. V. Jeffers, P. Rojo, P. Arriagada, A. Jordán, D. Minniti, M. Tuomi, D. Pinfield, G. Anglada-Escudé

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38 Citations (Scopus)


We present radial velocity measurements of a sample ofM5V-M9Vstars from our Red-Optical Planet Survey, operating at 0.652-1.025 μm. Radial velocities for 15 stars, with rms precision down to 2.5m-1 over a week-long time-scale, are achieved using thorium-argon reference spectra. We are sensitive to planets with mp sin i ≥ 1.5M (3M at 2σ) in the classical habitable zone, and our observations currently rule out planets with mp sini ≥ 0.5MJ at 0.03 au for all our targets. A total of 9 of the 15 targets exhibit rms<16m-1, which enables us to rule out the presence of planets with mp sini > 10M in 0.03 au orbits. Since the mean rotation velocity is of the order of 8 km-1 for an M6V star and 15 km -1 for M9V, we avoid observing only slow rotators that would introduce a bias towards low axial inclination (i< 90°) systems, which are unfavourable for planet detection. Our targets with the highest v sin i values exhibit radial velocities significantly above the photon-noise-limited precision, even after accounting for v sin i. We have therefore monitored stellar activity via chromospheric emission from the Hα and Ca II infrared triplet lines. A clear trend of log10(L/Lbol) with radial velocity rms is seen, implying that significant starspot activity is responsible for the observed radial velocity precision floor. The implication that most late M dwarfs are significantly spotted, and hence exhibit time varying line distortions, indicates that observations to detect orbiting planets need strategies to reliablymitigate against the effects of activity-induced radial velocity variations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3094-3113
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Planetary systems
  • Planets and satellites: detection
  • Stars: activity
  • Stars: atmospheres
  • Stars: low-Mass
  • Techniques: radial velocities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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