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Statistical Methodology & Data Analysis


Collecting astronomical data is one of many important steps in the scientific process.  Successful scientific interpretation requires sound data analyzing and statistical methodologies.  Often astronomers reinvent methods that have previously been developed and studied extensively by statisticians or scientists in other fields.   Thus, astronomers can benefit greatly from awareness and interaction of modern research in statistical sciences.  Members of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds greatly benefit from interactions with Penn State’s Center for Astrostatistics which has been a leader in advancing the level of statistical rigour in astronomy and astrophysics.

Areas of Specialty

  • Statistical Methodology (Feigelson)
  • Astrostatistics Education (Feigelson, Ford)
  • Bayesian methods (Dawson, Ford)
  • Analysis of transit photometry (Dawson, Ford, Gilliland)
  • Analysis of radial velocity observations (Dawson, Ford, Wright)
  • Analysis of pulsar timing data (Wolszczan)

Faculty Contacts

  • Rebekah Dawson explores approaches to characterize planets in time series data in the presence of correlated noise and/or gaps in the time sampling.
  • Eric Feigelson is an expert the application of statistical methods to problems in astronomy & astrophysics.
  • Eric Ford is a leader in the development and application of practical Bayesian methods for the analysis and interpretation of exoplanet observations.
  • Ronald Gilliland  has been deeply involved with both the Hubble Space Telescope and the Kepler Mission before either launched, and remains an active user of both.
    With HST and Kepler Dr. Gilliland provided a broad range of instrument calibrations and became an expert in data analysis, especially time-series photometry of central importance to exoplanet transit surveys and asteroseismology.
  • Suvrath Mahadevan is working with Dr. Paul Robertson to develop methods to dissentangle Doppler signals induced by small planets from stellar activity.
  • Alex Wolszczan is an expert in the interpretation of pulsar timing data, such as used to detect the PSR 1620-26b. and the planets PSR 1257+12 planetary system.
  • Jason Wright and his collaborators maintain the IDL software packages RVLIN (which performs fast, multi-planet, multi-observatory Keplerian fitting of radial velocity time series), BOOTTRAN (which drives RVLIN to generate Keplerian parameter uncertainties using statistical bootstrapping), and BARYCORR (a routine for Doppler work that corrects for the relative motion of the Earth and stellar system barycenter, precise to < 1 mm/s).

Research Associates & Postdocs


  • Gabriel Caceras
  • Danley Hsu


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