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A Fully Bayesian Method for Jointly Fitting Instrumental Calibration and X-Ray Spectral Models


Owing to a lack of robust principled methods, systematic instrumental uncertainties have generally been ignored in astrophysical data analysis despite wide recognition of the importance of including them. Ignoring calibration uncertainty can cause bias in the estimation of source model parameters and can lead to underestimation of the variance of these estimates. We previously introduced a pragmatic Bayesian method to address this problem. The method is "pragmatic" in that it introduced an ad hoc technique that simplified computation by neglecting the potential information in the data for narrowing the uncertainty for the calibration product. Following that work, we use a principal component analysis to efficiently represent the uncertainty of the effective area of an X-ray (or γ-ray) telescope. Here, however, we leverage this representation to enable a principled, fully Bayesian method that coherently accounts for the calibration uncertainty in high-energy spectral analysis. In this setting, the method is compared with standard analysis techniques and the pragmatic Bayesian method. The advantage of the fully Bayesian method is that it allows the data to provide information not only for estimation of the source parameters but also for the calibration product—here the effective area, conditional on the adopted spectral model. In this way, it can yield more accurate and efficient estimates of the source parameters along with valid estimates of their uncertainty. Provided that the source spectrum can be accurately described by a parameterized model, this method allows rigorous inference about the effective area by quantifying which possible curves are most consistent with the data.


Xu, Jin; van Dyk, David A.; Kashyap, Vinay L.; Siemiginowska, Aneta; Connors, Alanna; Drake, Jeremy; Meng, Xiao-Li; Ratzlaff, Pete; Yu, Yaming


Astrophysical Journal

Paper Publication Date

October 2014

Paper Type


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