An improved probabilistic approach for linking progenitor and descendant galaxy populations using comoving number density
Galaxy populations at different cosmic epochs are often linked by cumulative comoving number density in observational studies. Many theoretical works, however, have shown that the cumulative number densities of tracked galaxy populations not only evolve in bulk, but also spread out over time. We present a method for linking progenitor and descendant galaxy populations which takes both of these effects into account. We define probability distribution functions that capture the evolution and dispersion of galaxy populations in number density space, and use these functions to assign galaxies at redshift zf probabilities of being progenitors/descendants of a galaxy population at another redshift z0. These probabilities are used as weights for calculating distributions of physical progenitor/descendant properties such as stellar mass, star formation rate or velocity dispersion. We demonstrate that this probabilistic method provides more accurate predictions for the evolution of physical properties than the assumption of either a constant number density or an evolving number density in a bin of fixed width by comparing predictions against galaxy populations directly tracked through a cosmological simulation. We find that the constant number density method performs least well at recovering galaxy properties, the evolving method density slightly better and the probabilistic method best of all. The improvement is present for predictions of stellar mass as well as inferred quantities such as star formation rate and velocity dispersion. We demonstrate that this method can also be applied robustly and easily to observational data, and provide a code package for doing so.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Pub Date:
- June 2017
- methods: numerical;
- galaxies: abundances;
- galaxies: evolution;
- galaxies: statistics;
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
- 11 pages, 6 figures, submitted to MNRAS, comments welcome!