Period, epoch, and prediction errors of ephemerides from continuous sets of timing measurements
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, C. Vía Lactea S/N, 38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Universidad de La Laguna, Dept. de Astrofísica, 38206 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Received: 19 November 2014
Accepted: 14 March 2015
Space missions such as Kepler and CoRoT have led to large numbers of eclipse or transit measurements in nearly continuous time series. This paper shows how to obtain the period error in such measurements from a basic linear least-squares fit, and how to correctly derive the timing error in the prediction of future transit or eclipse events. Assuming strict periodicity, a formula for the period error of these time series is derived, σP = σT (12 / (N3−N))1 / 2, where σP is the period error, σT the timing error of a single measurement, and N the number of measurements. Compared to the iterative method for period error estimation by Mighell & Plavchan (2013), this much simpler formula leads to smaller period errors, whose correctness has been verified through simulations. For the prediction of times of future periodic events, usual linear ephemeris were epoch errors are quoted for the first time measurement, are prone to an overestimation of the error of that prediction. This may be avoided by a correction for the duration of the time series. An alternative is the derivation of ephemerides whose reference epoch and epoch error are given for the centre of the time series. For long continuous or near-continuous time series whose acquisition is completed, such central epochs should be the preferred way for the quotation of linear ephemerides. While this work was motivated from the analysis of eclipse timing measures in space-based light curves, it should be applicable to any other problem with an uninterrupted sequence of discrete timings for which the determination of a zero point, of a constant period and of the associated errors is needed.
Key words: ephemerides / time / occultations / techniques: photometric / methods: data analysis / binaries: eclipsing
© ESO, 2015