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Radial velocity is the velocity of an object in the direction of the radius (i.e. the line of sight between the two objects). In other words, it is its speed straight towards or away from another object. In astronomy, radial velocity most commonly refers to the spectroscopic radial velocity. The spectroscopic radial velocity is the radial component of the velocity of the source at emission and the observer at observation, as determined by spectroscopy. Astrometric radial velocity is the radial velocity as determined by astrometric observations (for example, a secular change in the annual parallax).
Spectroscopic radial velocity
Light from an object with a substantial relative radial velocity at emission will be subject to the Doppler effect, so the frequency of the light decreases for objects that were receding (redshift) and increases for objects that were approaching (blueshift).
The radial velocity of a star or other luminous distant objects can be measured accurately by taking a high-resolution spectrum and comparing the measured wavelengths of known spectral lines to wavelengths from laboratory measurements. A positive radial velocity indicates the distance between the objects is or was increasing; a negative radial velocity indicates the distance between the source and observer is or was decreasing.
In many binary stars, the orbital motion usually causes radial velocity variations of several kilometers per second. As the spectra of these stars vary due to the Doppler effect, they are called spectroscopic binaries. Radial velocity can be used to estimate the ratio of the masses of the stars, and some orbital elements, such as eccentricity and semimajor axis. The same method has also been used to detect planets around stars, in the way that the movement's measurement determines the planet's orbital period, while the resulting radial-velocity amplitude allows the calculation of the lower bound on a planet's mass. Radial velocity methods alone may only reveal a lower bound, since a large planet orbiting at a very high angle to the line of sight will perturb its star radially as much as a much smaller planet with an orbital plane on the line of sight. It has been suggested that planets with high eccentricities calculated by this method may in fact be two-planet systems of circular or near-circular resonant orbit.
Radial velocity comparison tables
The following table shows the disturbance in the radial velocity of a star caused by a planetary companion of a certain mass (e.g. that of Jupiter) at a certain distance of the star (e.g. 1 AU).
|Super-Earth (5 M⊕)||0.1||1.4 m/s|
|Alpha Centauri Bb (1.13 ± 0.09 M⊕)||0.04||0.51 m/s||(1)|
|Super-Earth (5 M⊕)||1||0.45 m/s|
For MK-type stars with planets in the habitable zone
- Proper motion
- Peculiar velocity
- Doppler spectroscopy - the radial velocity method for detecting extrasolar planets
- Anglada-Escude. "How eccentric orbital solutions can hide planetary systems in 2:1 resonant orbits". The Astrophysical Journal Letters 709 (1): 168–78. arXiv:0809.1275. Bibcode:2010ApJ...709..168A. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/709/1/168.
- "Planet Found in Nearest Star System to Earth". European Southern Observatory. 16 October 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- "ESPRESSO and CODEX the next generation of RV planet hunters at ESO". Chinese Academy of Sciences. 2010-10-16. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
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