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A hierarchical Bayesian approach for reconstructing the initial mass function of single stellar populations

Dries, M., Trager, S. C. & Koopmans, L. V. E., 21-Nov-2016, In : Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 463, 1, p. 886-912 27 p.

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Recent studies based on the integrated light of distant galaxies suggest that the initial mass function (IMF) might not be universal. Variations of the IMF with galaxy type and/or formation time may have important consequences for our understanding of galaxy evolution. We have developed a new stellar population synthesis (SPS) code specifically designed to reconstruct the IMF. We implement a novel approach combining regularization with hierarchical Bayesian inference. Within this approach, we use a parametrized IMF prior to regulate a direct inference of the IMF. This direct inference gives more freedom to the IMF and allows the model to deviate from parametrized models when demanded by the data. We use Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling techniques to reconstruct the best parameters for the IMF prior, the age and the metallicity of a single stellar population. We present our code and apply our model to a number of mock single stellar populations with different ages, metallicities and IMFs. When systematic uncertainties are not significant, we are able to reconstruct the input parameters that were used to create the mock populations. Our results show that if systematic uncertainties do play a role, this may introduce a bias on the results. Therefore, it is important to objectively compare different ingredients of SPS models. Through its Bayesian framework, our model is well suited for this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)886-912
Number of pages27
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume463
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21-Nov-2016

    Keywords

  • methods: statistical, galaxies: luminosity function, mass function, galaxies: stellar content, EARLY-TYPE GALAXIES, NEWTON-TELESCOPE LIBRARY, ATMOSPHERIC PARAMETERS, SYSTEMATIC VARIATION, EMPIRICAL SPECTRA, ELLIPTIC GALAXIES, SYNTHESIS MODELS, M STARS, EVOLUTION, RESOLUTION

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