We present EzGal, a flexible Python program designed to easily generate observable parameters (magnitudes, colors, and mass-to-light ratios) for arbitrary input stellar population synthesis (SPS) models. As has been demonstrated by various authors, for many applications the choice of input SPS models can be a significant source of systematic uncertainty. A key strength of EzGal is that it enables simple, direct comparison of different model sets so that the uncertainty introduced by choice of model set can be quantified. Its ability to work with new models will allow EzGal to remain useful as SPS modeling evolves to keep up with the latest research (such as varying IMFs). EzGal is also capable of generating composite stellar population models (CSPs) for arbitrary input star-formation histories and reddening laws, and it can be used to interpolate between metallicities for a given model set. To facilitate use, we have created an online interface to run EzGal and quickly generate magnitude and mass-to-light ratio predictions for a variety of star-formation histories and model sets. We make many commonly used SPS models available from the online interface, including the canonical Bruzual & Charlot models, an updated version of these models, the Maraston models, the BaSTI models, and the Flexible Stellar Population Synthesis (FSPS) models. We use EzGal to compare magnitude predictions for the model sets as a function of wavelength, age, metallicity, and star-formation history. From this comparison we quickly recover the well-known result that the models agree best in the optical for old solar-metallicity models, with differences at the level. Similarly, the most problematic regime for SPS modeling is for young ages (≲2 Gyr) and long wavelengths (λ ≳ 7500 Å), where thermally pulsating AGB stars are important and scatter between models can vary from 0.3 mag (Sloan i) to 0.7 mag (Ks). We find that these differences are not caused by one discrepant model set and should therefore be interpreted as general uncertainties in SPS modeling. Finally, we connect our results to a more physically motivated example by generating CSPs with a star-formation history matching the global star-formation history of the universe. We demonstrate that the wavelength and age dependence of SPS model uncertainty translates into a redshift-dependent model uncertainty, highlighting the importance of a quantitative understanding of model differences when comparing observations with models as a function of redshift.
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
- Pub Date:
- June 2012
- Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics;
- Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics
- 10 pages, 5 figures, accepted for publication in PASP