Robust Chauvenet Outlier Rejection

13 Jul 2018  ·  M. P. Maples, D. E. Reichart, N. C. Konz, T. A. Berger, A. S. Trotter, J. R. Martin, D. A. Dutton, M. L. Paggen, R. E. Joyner, C. P. Salemi ·

Sigma clipping is commonly used in astronomy for outlier rejection, but the number of standard deviations beyond which one should clip data from a sample ultimately depends on the size of the sample. Chauvenet rejection is one of the oldest, and simplest, ways to account for this, but, like sigma clipping, depends on the sample's mean and standard deviation, neither of which are robust quantities: Both are easily contaminated by the very outliers they are being used to reject... Many, more robust measures of central tendency, and of sample deviation, exist, but each has a tradeoff with precision. Here, we demonstrate that outlier rejection can be both very robust and very precise if decreasingly robust but increasingly precise techniques are applied in sequence. To this end, we present a variation on Chauvenet rejection that we call "robust" Chauvenet rejection (RCR), which uses three decreasingly robust/increasingly precise measures of central tendency, and four decreasingly robust/increasingly precise measures of sample deviation. We show this sequential approach to be very effective for a wide variety of contaminant types, even when a significant -- even dominant -- fraction of the sample is contaminated, and especially when the contaminants are strong. Furthermore, we have developed a bulk-rejection variant, to significantly decrease computing times, and RCR can be applied both to weighted data, and when fitting parameterized models to data. We present aperture photometry in a contaminated, crowded field as an example. RCR may be used by anyone at https://skynet.unc.edu/rcr, and source code is available there as well. read more

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Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics