online, on-board robust statistics

Zach Berta-Thompson (MIT) showed up at NYU today to discuss the on-board data analysis performed by the TESS spacecraft. His primary concern is cosmic rays: With the thick detectors in the cameras, cosmic rays will affect a large fraction of pixels in a 30-minute exposure. Fundamentally, the spacecraft takes 2-second exposures and co-adds them on-board, so there are lots of options for cosmic-ray mitigation. The catch is that the computation all has to be done on board with limited access to RAM and CPU.

Berta-Thompson showed that a "middle-eight-of-ten" strategy (every 10 sub-exposures average all but the highest and the lowest) does a pretty good job. I proposed something that looks like the standard "iteratively reweighted least squares" algorithm, but operating in an "online" mode where it can only see the last few elements of the past history. Berta-Thompson, Foreman-Mackey, and I tri-coded it in the Center for Data Science studio space. The default algorithm I wrote down didn't work great (right out of the box) but there are two hyper-parameters to tune. We put Berta-Thompson onto tuning.

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