Correcting HIRES/Keck radial velocities for small systematic errors

Lev Tal-Or, Trifon Trifonov, Shay Zucker, Tsevi Mazeh, Mathias Zechmeister

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67 Scopus citations


The HIRES spectrograph, mounted on the 10-m Keck-I telescope, belongs to a small group of radial-velocity (RV) instruments that produce stellar RVs with long-term precision down to ∼1 m s-1. In 2017, the HIRES team published 64,480 RVs of 1699 stars, collected between 1996 and 2014. In this bank of RVs, we identify a sample of RV-quiet stars, whose RV scatter is <10 m s-1, and use them to reveal two small but significant nightly zero-point effects: a discontinuous jump, caused by major modifications of the instrument in August 2004, and a long-term drift. The size of the 2004 jump is 1.5 ± 0.1 m s-1, and the slow zero-point variations have a typical magnitude of 1 m s-1. In addition, we find a small but significant correlation between stellar RVs and the time relative to local midnight, indicative of an average intra-night drift of 0.051 ± 0.004 m s-1 h-1. We correct the 64 480 HIRES RVs for the systematic effects we find, and make the corrected RVs publicly available. Our findings demonstrate the importance of observing RV-quiet stars, even in the era of simultaneously-calibrated RV spectrographs. We hope that the corrected HIRES RVs will facilitate the search for new planet candidates around the observed stars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L8-L13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • instrumentation: spectrographs
  • planetary systems
  • techniques: radial velocities


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