The ultraviolet, optical, and infrared properties of Sloan digital sky survey sources detected by galex

Marcel A. Agüeros, Željko Ivezić, Kevin R. Covey, Mirela Obrić, Lei Hao, Lucianne M. Walkowicz, Andrew A. West, Daniel E. Vanden Berk, Robert H. Lupton, Gillian R. Knapp, James E. Gunn, Gordon T. Richards, John Bochanski, Alyson Brooks, Mark Claire, Daryl Haggard, Nathan Kaib, Amy Kimball, Stephanie M. Gogarten, Anil SethMichael Solontoi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We discuss the ultraviolet, optical, and infrared properties of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) sources detected by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) as part of its All-sky Imaging Survey Early Release Observations. Virtually all (>99%) the GALEX sources in the overlap region are detected by SDSS; those without an SDSS counterpart within our 6″ search radius are mostly unflagged GALEX artifacts. GALEX sources represent ∼2.5% of all SDSS sources within these fields, and about half are optically unresolved. Most unresolved GALEX-SDSS sources are bright (r < 18 mag), blue, turnoff, thick-disk stars and are typically detected only in the GALEX near-ultraviolet (NUV) band. The remaining unresolved sources include low-redshift quasars (z < 2.2), white dwarfs, and white dwarf-M dwarf pairs, and these dominate the optically unresolved sources detected in both GALEX bands. Almost all the resolved SDSS sources detected by GALEX are fainter than the SDSS main spectroscopic limit. (Conversely, of the SDSS galaxies in the main spectroscopic sample, about 40% are detected in at least one GALEX band.) These sources have colors consistent with those of blue (spiral) galaxies (u -r < 2.2), and most are detected in both GALEX bands. Measurements of their UV colors allow much more accurate and robust estimates of star formation history than are possible using only SDSS data. Indeed, galaxies with the most recent (≲20 Myr) star formation can be robustly selected from the GALEX data by requiring that they be brighter in the far-ultraviolet (FUV) than in the NUV band. However, older starburst galaxies have UV colors similar to those of active galactic nuclei and thus cannot be selected unambiguously on the basis of GALEX fluxes alone. Additional information, such as spatially resolved FUV emission, optical morphology, or X-ray and radio data, is needed before blue GALEX colors can be unambiguously interpreted as a sign of recent star formation. With the aid of Two Micron All Sky Survey data, we construct and discuss median 10-band UV through infrared spectral energy distributions for turnoff stars, hot white dwarfs, low-redshift quasars, and spiral and elliptical galaxies. We point out the high degree of correlation between the UV color and the contribution of the UV flux to the UV through infrared flux of galaxies detected by GALEX; for example, this correlation can be used to predict the SDSS z-band measurement, using only two GALEX fluxes, with a scatter of only 0.7 mag.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1022-1036
Number of pages15
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Catalogs
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Ultraviolet: galaxies
  • Ultraviolet: general
  • Ultraviolet: stars


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