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Long-term magnetic activity of a sample of M-dwarf stars from the HARPS program
II. Activity and radial velocity

J. Gomes da Silva, N. C. Santos, X. Bonfils, X. Delfosse, T. Forveille, S. Udry, X. Dumusque, C. Lovis

Owing to their low mass and luminosity, M dwarfs are ideal targets if one hopes to find low-mass planets similar to Earth using the radial velocity (RV) method. However, stellar magnetic cycles could add noise or even mimic the RV signal of a long-period companion. We extend our previous study of the correlation between activity cycles and long-term RV variations for K dwarfs to the lower-end of the main sequence. Our objective is to detect any correlations between long-term activity variations and the observed RV of a sample of M dwarfs. We use a sample of 27 M-dwarfs with a median observational timespan of 5.9 years. The cross-correlation function (CCF) with its parameters RV, bisector inverse slope (BIS), full width at half maximum (FWHM), and contrast are computed from the HARPS spectrum. The activity index is derived using the Na i D doublet. These parameters are compared with the activity level of the stars to search for correlations. We detect RV variations up to ~5 ms-1 that we can attribute to activity cycle effects. However, only 36% of the stars with long-term activity variability appear to have had their RV affected by magnetic cycles, on the typical timescale of ~6 years. Therefore, we suggest a careful analysis of activity data when searching for extrasolar planets using long-timespan RV data.

planets and satellites: detection – stars: activity – stars: late-type – techniques: radial velocities – techniques: spectroscopic

Based on observations made with the HARPS instrument on the ESO 3.6-m telescope at La Silla Observatory under programme ID 072.C-0488(E).
Tables with the data used for Figs. A.1–A.27 are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to ( or via
Appendix A is available in electronic form at

Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume 541, Number of pages A9_1
2012 May

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia