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A novel estimator of the polarization amplitude from normally distributed Stokes parameters

Abstract : We propose a novel estimator of the polarization amplitude from a single measurement of its normally distributed $(Q,U)$ Stokes components. Based on the properties of the Rice distribution and dubbed "MAS" (Modified ASymptotic), it meets several desirable criteria:(i) its values lie in the whole positive region; (ii) its distribution is continuous; (iii) it transforms smoothly with the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) from a Rayleigh-like shape to a Gaussian one ; (iv) it is unbiased and reaches its components variance as soon as the SNR exceeds 2; (v) it is analytic and can therefore be used on large data-sets. We also revisit the construction of its associated confidence intervals, and show how the Feldman-Cousins prescription efficiently solves the issue of classical intervals lying entirely in the unphysical negative domain. Such intervals can be used to identify statistically significant polarized regions and conversely build masks for polarization data. We then consider the case of a general $[Q,U]$ covariance matrix and perform a generalization of the estimator that preserves its asymptotic properties. We show that its bias does not depend on the true polarization angle, and provide an analytic estimate of its variance. The estimator value, together with its variance, provide a powerful point-estimate of the true polarization amplitude that follows an unbiased Gaussian distribution for an SNR as low as 2. These results can be applied to the much more general case of transforming any normally distributed random variable from Cartesian to polar coordinates.
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Submitted on : Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 3:28:36 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 12:27:11 PM

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Stéphane Plaszczynski, L. Montier, F. Levrier, M. Tristram. A novel estimator of the polarization amplitude from normally distributed Stokes parameters. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy P - Oxford Open Option A, 2014, 439, pp.4048-4056. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stu270⟩. ⟨in2p3-00914533⟩



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