Up to four planets around the M dwarf GJ 163 : Sensitivity of Bayesian planet detection criteria to prior choice
Context. Exoplanet Doppler surveys are currently the most efficient means to detect low-mass companions to nearby stars. Among these stars, the light M dwarfs provide the highest sensitivity to detect low-mass exoplanet candidates. Evidence is accumulating that a substantial fraction of these low-mass planets are found in high-multiplicity planetary systems. GJ 163 is a nearby inactive M dwarf with abundant public observations obtained using the HARPS spectrograph. Aims. We obtain and analyse radial velocities from the HARPS public spectra of GJ 163 and investigate the presence of a planetary companions orbiting it. The number of planet candidates detected might depend on some prior assumptions. Since the impact of prior choice has not been investigated throughly previously, we study the effects of different prior densities on the detectability of planet candidates around GJ 163. Methods. We use Bayesian tools, i.e. posterior samplings and model comparisons, when analysing the GJ 163 velocities. We consider models accounting for the possible correlations of subsequent measurements. We also search for activity-related counterparts of the signals we observe and test the dynamical stability of the planetary systems corresponding to our solutions using direct numerical integrations of the orbits. Results. We find that there are at least three planet candidates orbiting GJ 163. The existence of a fourth planet is supported by the data but the evidence in favor of the corresponding model is not yet conclusive. The second innermost planet candidate in the system with an orbital period of 25.6 days and a minimum mass of 8.7 M· is inside the liquid-water habitable zone of the star. Conclusions. The architecture of GJ 163 system resembles a scaled-down Solar System in the sense that there are two low-mass planets on orbital periods of 8.7 and 25.6 days in the inner system, a possible slightly more massive companion on an intermediate orbit, and an outer sub-Saturnian companion at roughly 1 AU. The discovery of (yet) another planetary system with several low-mass companions around a nearby M-dwarf indicates that the high-multiplicity planetary systems found by the NASA Kepler mission around G and K dwarfs is also present (possibly even reinforced) around low-mass stars. © 2013 ESO.