Mid-infrared period-luminosity relations of RR Lyrae stars derived from the wise preliminary data release

Christopher R. Klein, Joseph W. Richards, Nathaniel R. Butler, Joshua S. Bloom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Interstellar dust presents a significant challenge to extending parallax-determined distances of optically observed pulsational variables to larger volumes. Distance ladder work at mid-infrared wavebands, where dust effects are negligible and metallicity correlations are minimized, has been largely focused on few-epoch Cepheid studies. Here we present the first determination of mid-infrared period-luminosity (PL) relations of RR Lyrae stars from phase-resolved imaging using the preliminary data release of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). We present a novel statistical framework to predict posterior distances of 76 well observed RR Lyrae that uses the optically constructed prior distance moduli while simultaneously imposing a power-law PL relation to WISE-determined mean magnitudes. We find that the absolute magnitude in the bluest WISE filter is M W1 = (- 0.421 0.014) - (1.681 0.147)log10(P/0.50118 day), with no evidence for a correlation with metallicity. Combining the results from the three bluest WISE filters, we find that a typical star in our sample has a distance measurement uncertainty of 0.97% (statistical) plus 1.17% (systematic). We do not fundamentalize the periods of RRc stars to improve their fit to the relations. Taking the Hipparcos-derived mean V-band magnitudes, we use the distance posteriors to determine a new optical metallicity-luminosity relation. The results of this analysis will soon be tested by Hubble Space Telescope parallax measurements and, eventually, with the GAIA astrometric mission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number185
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 10 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • infrared: stars
  • methods: statistical
  • stars: distances
  • stars: variables: RR Lyrae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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