No galaxy left behind: Accurate measurements with the faintest objects in the Dark Energy Survey

The DES Collaboration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Accurate statistical measurement with large imaging surveys has traditionally required throwing away a sizable fraction of the data. This is because most measurements have relied on selecting nearly complete samples, where variations in the composition of the galaxy population with seeing, depth, or other survey characteristics are small. We introduce a new measurement method that aims to minimize this wastage, allowing precision measurement for any class of detectable stars or galaxies. We have implemented our proposal in BALROG, software which embeds fake objects in real imaging to accurately characterize measurement biases. We demonstrate this technique with an angular clustering measurement using Dark Energy Survey (DES) data. We first show that recovery of our injected galaxies depends on a variety of survey characteristics in the same way as the real data. We then construct a fluxlimited sample of the faintest galaxies in DES, chosen specifically for their sensitivity to depth and seeing variations. Using the synthetic galaxies as randoms in the Landy-Szalay estimator suppresses the effects of variable survey selection by at least two orders of magnitude. With this correction, our measured angular clustering is found to be in excellent agreement with that of a matched sample from much deeper, higher resolution space-based Cosmological Evolution Survey (COSMOS) imaging; over angular scales of 0.°004 < θ < 0.°2, we find a best-fitting scaling amplitude between the DES and COSMOS measurements of 1.00 ± 0.09. We expect this methodology to be broadly useful for extending measurements' statistical reach in a variety of upcoming imaging surveys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)786-808
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: statistics
  • Methods: data analysis
  • Methods: miscellaneous
  • Techniques: image processing


Dive into the research topics of 'No galaxy left behind: Accurate measurements with the faintest objects in the Dark Energy Survey'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this