Objective identification of informative wavelength regions in galaxy spectra

Ching Wa Yip, Michael W. Mahoney, Alexander S. Szalay, István Csabai, Tamás Budavári, Rosemary F.G. Wyse, Laszlo Dobos

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the diversity in spectra is the key to determining the physical parameters of galaxies. The optical spectra of galaxies are highly convoluted with continuum and lines that are potentially sensitive to different physical parameters. Defining the wavelength regions of interest is therefore an important question. In this work, we identify informative wavelength regions in a single-burst stellar population model using the CUR Matrix Decomposition. Simulating the Lick/IDS spectrograph configuration, we recover the widely used Dn (4000), Hβ, and HδA to be most informative. Simulating the Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectrograph configuration with a wavelength range 3450-8350 Å and a model-limited spectral resolution of 3 Å, the most informative regions are: first region - the 4000 Å break and the Hδ line; second region - the Fe-like indices; third region - the Hβ line; and fourth region - the G band and the Hγ line. A principal component analysis on the first region shows that the first eigenspectrum tells primarily the stellar age, the second eigenspectrum is related to the age-metallicity degeneracy, and the third eigenspectrum shows an anti-correlation between the strengths of the Balmer and the Ca K and H absorptions. The regions can be used to determine the stellar age and metallicity in early-type galaxies that have solar abundance ratios, no dust, and a single-burst star formation history. The region identification method can be applied to any set of spectra of the user's interest, so that we eliminate the need for a common, fixed-resolution index system. We discuss future directions in extending the current analysis to late-type galaxies. ASCII formatted tables of the regional eigenspectra are available.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2014



  • galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • methods: data analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Yip, C. W., Mahoney, M. W., Szalay, A. S., Csabai, I., Budavári, T., Wyse, R. F. G., & Dobos, L. (2014). Objective identification of informative wavelength regions in galaxy spectra. Astronomical Journal, 147(5), [110]. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-6256/147/5/110