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A Bayesian method for detecting stellar flares


We present a Bayesian-odds-ratio-based algorithm for detecting stellar flares in light-curve data. We assume flares are described by a model in which there is a rapid rise with a half-Gaussian profile, followed by an exponential decay. Our signal model also contains a polynomial background model required to fit underlying light-curve variations in the data, which could otherwise partially mimic a flare. We characterize the false alarm probability and efficiency of this method under the assumption that any unmodelled noise in the data is Gaussian, and compare it with a simpler thresholding method based on that used in Walkowicz et al. We find our method has a significant increase in detection efficiency for low signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) flares. For a conservative false alarm probability our method can detect 95 per cent of flares with S/N less than 20, as compared to S/N of 25 for the simpler method. We also test how well the assumption of Gaussian noise holds by applying the method to a selection of `quiet' Kepler stars. As an example we have applied our method to a selection of stars in Kepler Quarter 1 data. The method finds 687 flaring stars with a total of 1873 flares after vetos have been applied. For these flares we have made preliminary characterizations of their durations and and S/N.


Pitkin, M.; Williams, D.; Fletcher, L.; Grant, S. D. T.


Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Paper Publication Date

December 2014

Paper Type


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