A Data-driven Study of RR Lyrae Near-IR Light Curves: Principal Component Analysis, Robust Fits, and Metallicity Estimates

Gergely Hajdu, István Dékány, Márcio Catelan, Eva K. Grebel, Johanna Jurcsik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


RR Lyrae variables are widely used tracers of Galactic halo structure and kinematics, but they can also serve to constrain the distribution of the old stellar population in the Galactic bulge. With the aim of improving their near-infrared photometric characterization, we investigate their near-infrared light curves, as well as the empirical relationships between their light curve and metallicities using machine learning methods. We introduce a new, robust method for the estimation of the light-curve shapes, hence the average magnitudes of RR Lyrae variables in the K S band, by utilizing the first few principal components (PCs) as basis vectors, obtained from the PC analysis of a training set of light curves. Furthermore, we use the amplitudes of these PCs to predict the light-curve shape of each star in the J-band, allowing us to precisely determine their average magnitudes (hence colors), even in cases where only one J measurement is available. Finally, we demonstrate that the K S-band light-curve parameters of RR Lyrae variables, together with the period, allow the estimation of the metallicity of individual stars with an accuracy of ∼0.2-0.25 dex, providing valuable chemical information about old stellar populations bearing RR Lyrae variables. The methods presented here can be straightforwardly adopted for other classes of variable stars, bands, or for the estimation of other physical quantities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number55
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • methods: data analysis
  • methods: observational
  • methods: statistical
  • stars: variables: RR Lyrae
  • techniques: photometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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