Testing the recovery of stellar rotation signals from Kepler light curves using a blind hare-and-hounds exercise

S. Aigrain, J. Llama, T. Ceillier, M. L. Das Chagas, J. R.A. Davenport, R. A. García, K. L. Hay, A. F. Lanza, A. McQuillan, T. Mazeh, J. R. De Medeiros, M. B. Nielsen, T. Reinhold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present the results of a blind exercise to test the recoverability of stellar rotation and differential rotation in Kepler light curves. The simulated light curves lasted 1000 d and included activity cycles, Sun-like butterfly patterns, differential rotation and spot evolution. The range of rotation periods, activity levels and spot lifetime were chosen to be representative of the Kepler data of solar-like stars. Of the 1000 simulated light curves, 770 were injected into actual quiescent Kepler light curves to simulate Kepler noise. The test also included five 1000-d segments of the Sun's total irradiance variations at different points in the Sun's activity cycle. Five teams took part in the blind exercise, plus two teams who participated after the content of the light curves had been released. The methods used included Lomb-Scargle periodograms and variants thereof, autocorrelation function and wavelet-based analyses, plus spot modelling to search for differential rotation. The results show that the 'overall' period is well recovered for stars exhibiting low and moderate activity levels. Most teams reported values within 10 per cent of the true value in 70 per cent of the cases. There was, however, little correlation between the reported and simulated values of the differential rotation shear, suggesting that differential rotation studies based on full-disc light curves alone need to be treated with caution, at least for solar-type stars. The simulated light curves and associated parameters are available online for the community to test their own methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3211-3226
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Methods: data analysis
  • Stars: rotation
  • Starspots
  • Surveys
  • Techniques: photometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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