Fourier analysis of gapped time series: Improved estimates of solar and stellar oscillation parameters

Thorsten Stahn, Laurent Gizon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quantitative helioseismology and asteroseismology require very precise measurements of the frequencies, amplitudes, and lifetimes of the global modes of stellar oscillation. The precision of these measurements depends on the total length (T), quality, and completeness of the observations. Except in a few simple cases, the effect of gaps in the data on measurement precision is poorly understood, in particular in Fourier space where the convolution of the observable with the observation window introduces correlations between different frequencies. Here we describe and implement a rather general method to retrieve maximum likelihood estimates of the oscillation parameters, taking into account the proper statistics of the observations. Our fitting method applies in complex Fourier space and exploits the phase information. We consider both solar-like stochastic oscillations and long-lived harmonic oscillations, plus random noise. Using numerical simulations, we demonstrate the existence of cases for which our improved fitting method is less biased and has a greater precision than when the frequency correlations are ignored. This is especially true of low signal-to-noise solar-like oscillations. For example, we discuss a case where the precision of the mode frequency estimate is increased by a factor of five, for a duty cycle of 15%. In the case of long-lived sinusoidal oscillations, a proper treatment of the frequency correlations does not provide any significant improvement; nevertheless, we confirm that the mode frequency can be measured from gapped data with a much better precision than the 1/T Rayleigh resolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages22
JournalSolar Physics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Helioseismology: observations
  • Oscillations: solar
  • Oscillations: stellar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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