Hierarchical Bayesian approach for estimating physical properties in spiral galaxies: Age Maps for M74

Sánchez Gil, M. Carmen; Berihuete, Angel; Alfaro, Emilio J.; Pérez, Enrique; Sarro, Luis M.
Journal of Physics: Conference Series, Volume 633, Issue 1, article id. 012140 (2015).


One of the fundamental goals of modern Astronomy is to estimate the physical parameters of galaxies from images in different spectral bands. We present a hierarchical Bayesian model for obtaining age maps from images in the Ha line (taken with Taurus Tunable Filter (TTF)), ultraviolet band (far UV or FUV, from GALEX) and infrared bands (24, 70 and 160 microns (μm), from Spitzer). As shown in [1], we present the burst ages for young stellar populations in the nearby and nearly face on galaxy M74.

As it is shown in the previous work, the Hα to FUV flux ratio gives a good relative indicator of very recent star formation history (SFH). As a nascent star-forming region evolves, the Ha line emission declines earlier than the UV continuum, leading to a decrease in the HαFUV ratio. Through a specific star-forming galaxy model (Starburst 99, SB99), we can obtain the corresponding theoretical ratio Hα / FUV to compare with our observed flux ratios, and thus to estimate the ages of the observed regions.

Due to the nature of the problem, it is necessary to propose a model of high complexity to take into account the mean uncertainties, and the interrelationship between parameters when the Hα / FUV flux ratio mentioned above is obtained. To address the complexity of the model, we propose a Bayesian hierarchical model, where a joint probability distribution is defined to determine the parameters (age, metallicity, IMF), from the observed data, in this case the observed flux ratios Hα / FUV. The joint distribution of the parameters is described through an i.i.d. (independent and identically distributed random variables), generated through MCMC (Markov Chain Monte Carlo) techniques.