TEE, an estimator for the precision of eclipse and transit minimum times
1 Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, C. Vía Láctea S/N, 38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
2 Universidad de La Laguna, Dept. de Astrofísica, 38206 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
3 Stellar Astrophysics Centre (SAC), Department of Physics and Astronomy, Ny Munkegade 120, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
Received: 20 July 2016
Accepted: 7 December 2016
Context. Transit or eclipse timing variations have proven to be a valuable tool in exoplanet research. However, no simple way to estimate the potential precision of such timing measures has been presented yet, nor are guidelines available regarding the relation between timing errors and sampling rate.
Aims. A timing error estimator (TEE) equation is presented that requires only basic transit parameters as input. With the TEE, estimating timing precision for actual data and for future instruments, such as the TESS and PLATO space missions, is straightforward.
Methods. A derivation of the timing error based on a trapezoidal transit shape is given. We also verify the TEE on realistically modelled transits using Monte Carlo simulations and determine its validity range, exploring in particular the interplay between ingress/egress times and sampling rates.
Results. The simulations show that the TEE gives timing errors very close to the correct value, as long as the temporal sampling is faster than transit ingress/egress durations and transits with very low S/N are avoided.
Conclusions. The TEE is a useful tool for estimating eclipse or transit timing errors in actual and future data sets. In combination with a previously published equation to estimate period-errors, predictions for the ephemeris precision of long-coverage observations are possible as well. The tests for the TEE’s validity range also led to implications for instrumental design. Temporal sampling has to be faster than transit ingress or egress durations, or a loss in timing precision will occur. An application to the TESS mission shows that transits close to its detection limit will have timing uncertainties that exceed 1 h within a few months of their acquisition. Prompt follow-up observations will be needed to avoid “losing” their ephemerides.
Key words: methods: data analysis / techniques: photometric / ephemerides / planets and satellites: detection / occultations / binaries: eclipsing
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