Stellar activity masquerading as planets in the habitable zone of the M dwarf Gliese 581

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Science  03 Jul 2014:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1253253

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The M dwarf Gliese 581 is believed to host four planets, including one (GJ 581d) near the habitable zone that could possibly support liquid water on its surface if it is a rocky planet. The detection of another habitable-zone planet—GJ 581 g—is disputed, as its significance depends on the eccentricity assumed for d. Analyzing stellar activity using the Hα line, we measure a stellar rotation period of 130 ± 2 days and a correlation for Hα modulation with radial velocity. Correcting for activity greatly diminishes the signal of GJ 581d (to 1.5σ) while significantly boosting the signals of the other known super-Earth planets. GJ 581d does not exist, but is an artifact of stellar activity which, when incompletely corrected, causes the false detection of planet g.

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