The Joker [YO-ker] /’joʊkər/


The Joker [1] is a custom Monte Carlo sampler for the two-body problem and is therefore useful for constraining star-star or star-planet systems. It is designed to generate posterior samples over the orbital parameters of the primary (observed) star given time-domain radial velocity measurements of this star. Though it is assumed the system has only a primary and a companion, The Joker can also be used for hierarchical systems in which the velocity perturbations from a third or other bodies are much longer than the dominant companion. See the paper [2] for more details about the method and applications.

The Joker is particularly useful for sparse or low-quality radial velocity data.

Getting started

Generating samples with The Joker requires specifying three things:

  1. The data, RVData: radial velocity measurements, uncertainties, and observation times
  2. The model parameters, JokerParams: hyper-parameters, what parameters to sample over
  3. The sampler parameters, TheJoker: how many prior samples to generate, etc.

Here we’ll work through a simple example to generate samples for orbital parameters for some sparse, pre-generated data (shown below). We’ll first turn these data into a RVData object:

>>> from import RVData
>>> import astropy.units as u
>>> t = [0., 49.452, 95.393, 127.587, 190.408]
>>> rv = [38.77, 39.70, 37.45, 38.31, 38.31] *
>>> err = [0.184, 0.261, 0.112, 0.155, 0.223] *
>>> data = RVData(t=t, rv=rv, stddev=err)
>>> ax = data.plot() 
>>> ax.set_xlim(-10, 200) 
>>> ax.set_xlabel("Time [day]") 
>>> ax.set_ylabel("RV [km/s]") 

(Source code, png)


We next need to specify some hyper-parameters for The Joker. At minimum, we have to specify the minimum and maximum period to consider:

>>> from thejoker.sampler import JokerParams
>>> params = JokerParams(P_min=8*, P_max=512*

Finally we can create the sampler object and run:

>>> from thejoker.sampler import TheJoker
>>> joker = TheJoker(params)
>>> samples = joker.rejection_sample(data, n_prior_samples=65536) 

Of the 65536 prior samples we considered, only a handful pass the rejection sampling step of The Joker. Let’s visualize the surviving samples in the subspace of the period \(P\) and velocity semi-amplitude \(K\). We’ll also plot the true values as a green marker. As a separate plot, we’ll also visualize orbits computed from these posterior samples (check the source code below to see how these were made):

(Source code)