Astrophysical Insights into Radial Velocity Jitter from an Analysis of 600 Planet-search Stars

Jacob K. Luhn, Jason T. Wright, Andrew W. Howard, Howard Isaacson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Radial velocity (RV) detection of planets is hampered by astrophysical processes on the surfaces of stars that induce a stochastic signal, or "jitter," which can drown out or even mimic planetary signals. Here, we empirically and carefully measure the RV jitter of more than 600 stars from the California Planet Search sample on a star by star basis. As part of this process, we explore the activity-RV correlation of stellar cycles and include appendices listing every ostensibly companion-induced signal we removed and every activity cycle we noted. We then use precise stellar properties from Brewer et al. to separate the sample into bins of stellar mass and examine trends with activity and with evolutionary state. We find that RV jitter tracks stellar evolution and that in general, stars evolve through different stages of RV jitter: the jitter in younger stars is driven by magnetic activity, while the jitter in older stars is convectively driven and dominated by granulation and oscillations. We identify the "jitter minimum" - where activity-driven and convectively driven jitter have similar amplitudes - for stars between 0.7 and 1.7 M o˙ and find that more-massive stars reach this jitter minimum later in their lifetime, in the subgiant or even giant phases. Finally, we comment on how these results can inform future RV efforts, from prioritization of follow-up targets from transit surveys like TESS to target selection of future RV surveys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number235
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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