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Quantifying the Bayesian Evidence for a Planet in Radial Velocity Data

B. E. Nelson, E. B. Ford, J. Buchner, R. Cloutier, R. F. Díaz, J. P. Faria, N. Hara, V. M. Rajpaul, S. Rukdee

Abstract
We present results from a data challenge posed to the radial velocity (RV) community: namely, to quantify the Bayesian "evidence" for n = {0, 1, 2, 3} planets in a set of synthetically generated RV data sets containing a range of planet signals. Participating teams were provided the same likelihood function and set of priors to use in their analysis. They applied a variety of methods to estimate , the marginal likelihood for each n-planet model, including cross-validation, the Laplace approximation, importance sampling, and nested sampling. We found the dispersion in  across different methods grew with increasing n-planet models: ~3 for zero planets, ~10 for one planet, ~102–103 for two planets, and >104 for three planets. Most internal estimates of uncertainty in for individual methods significantly underestimated the observed dispersion across all methods. Methods that adopted a Monte Carlo approach by comparing estimates from multiple runs yielded plausible uncertainties. Finally, two classes of numerical algorithms (those based on importance and nested samplers) arrived at similar conclusions regarding the ratio of s for n- and (n + 1)-planet models. One analytic method (the Laplace approximation) demonstrated comparable performance. We express both optimism and caution: we demonstrate that it is practical to perform rigorous Bayesian model comparison for models of ≤3 planets, yet robust planet discoveries require researchers to better understand the uncertainty in and its connections to model selection.

Keywords
Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics; Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics

The Astronomical Journal
Volume 159, Number 2
2020 February

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