Author(s): , ,
Institution(s): 1. Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
In stellar interferometry, the assumption that the observables can be seen as Gaussian, independent variables is the norm. In particular, neither the optical interferometry FITS (OIFITS) format nor the most popular fitting software in the field, LITpro, offer means to specify a covariance matrix or non-Gaussian uncertainties. Interferometric observables are correlated by construct, though. Also, the calibration by an instrumental transfer function ensures that the resulting observables are not Gaussian, even if uncalibrated ones happened to be so.
While analytic frameworks have been published in the past, they are cumbersome and there is no generic implementation available. We propose here a relatively simple way of dealing with correlated errors without the need to extend the OIFITS specification or making some Gaussian assumptions. By repeatedly picking at random which interferograms, which calibrator stars, and which are the errors on their diameters, and performing the data processing on the bootstrapped data, we derive a sampling of p(O), the multivariate probability density function (PDF) of the observables O. The results can be stored in a normal OIFITS file. Then, given a model m with parameters P predicting observables O = m(P), we can estimate the PDF of the model parameters f(P) = p(m(P)) by using a density estimation of the observables' PDF p.
With observations repeated over different baselines, on nights several days apart, and with a significant set of calibrators systematic errors are de facto taken into account. We apply the technique to a precise and accurate assessment of stellar diameters obtained at the Very Large Telescope Interferometer with PIONIER.