Probabilistic catalogs for crowded stellar fields

Brendon J. Brewer, Daniel Foreman-Mackey, David W. Hogg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We present and implement a probabilistic (Bayesian) method for producing catalogs from images of stellar fields. The method is capable of inferring the number of sources N in the image and can also handle the challenges introduced by noise, overlapping sources, and an unknown point-spread function. The luminosity function of the stars can also be inferred, even when the precise luminosity of each star is uncertain, via the use of a hierarchical Bayesian model. The computational feasibility of the method is demonstrated on two simulated images with different numbers of stars. We find that our method successfully recovers the input parameter values along with principled uncertainties even when the field is crowded. We also compare our results with those obtained from the SExtractor software. While the two approaches largely agree about the fluxes of the bright stars, the Bayesian approach provides more accurate inferences about the faint stars and the number of stars, particularly in the crowded case.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number7
    JournalAstronomical Journal
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jul 2013


    • catalogs
    • methods: data analysis
    • methods: statistical
    • stars: luminosity function, mass function

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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