The Doppler technique measures the reflex radial motion of a star induced by the presence of companions and is the most successful method to detect exoplanets. If several planets are present, their signals will appear combined in the radial motion of the star, leading to potential misinterpretations of the data. Specifically, two planets in 2:1 resonant orbits can mimic the signal of a single planet in an eccentric orbit. We quantify the implications of this statistical degeneracy for a representative sample of the reported single exoplanets with available data sets, finding that (1) around 35% of the published eccentric one-planet solutions are statistically indistinguishable from planetary systems in 2:1 orbital resonance, (2) another 40% cannot be statistically distinguished from a circular orbital solution, and (3) planets with masses comparable to Earth could be hidden in known orbital solutions of eccentric super-Earths and Neptune mass planets.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- January 2010
- celestial mechanics;
- planetary systems;
- techniques: radial velocities;
- new version with referee comments included. Accepted for publication on ApJ