Volume 431, Number 1, February III 2005
|Page(s)||391 - 403|
|Published online||02 February 2005|
A simple test for periodic signals in red noise
X-Ray and Observational Astronomy Group, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 12 October 2004
We demonstrate a simple method for testing the significance of peaks in the periodogram of red noise data. The procedure was designed to test for spurious periodicities in X-ray light curves of active galaxies, but can be used quite generally to test for periodic components against a background noise spectrum assumed to have a power law shape. The method provides a simple and fast test of the significance of candidate periodic signals in short, well-sampled time series such as those obtained from XMM-Newton observations of Seyfert galaxies, without the need for Monte Carlo simulations. A full account is made of the number of trials and the uncertainties inherent to the model fitting. Ignoring these subtle effects can lead to substantially overestimated significances. These difficulties motivate us to demand high standards of detection (minimum per cent confidence) for periodicities in sources that normally show red noise spectra. The method also provides a simple means to estimate the power spectral index, which may be an interesting parameter itself, regardless of the presence/absence of periodicities.
Key words: methods: data analysis / methods: statistical / X-rays: general / X-rays: galaxies
© ESO, 2005
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