Dissecting galaxy formation models with sensitivity analysis - A new approach to constrain the milky way formation history


Journal Article

We present an application of a statistical tool known as sensitivity analysis to characterize the relationship between input parameters and observational predictions of semi-analytic models of galaxy formation coupled to cosmological N-body simulations. We show how a sensitivity analysis can be performed on our chemo-dynamical model, ChemTreeN, to characterize and quantify its relationship between model input parameters and predicted observable properties. The result of this analysis provides the user with information about which parameters are most important and most likely to affect the prediction of a given observable. It can also be used to simplify models by identifying input parameters that have no effect on the outputs (i.e., observational predictions) of interest. Conversely, sensitivity analysis allows us to identify what model parameters can be most efficiently constrained by the given observational data set. We have applied this technique to real observational data sets associated with the Milky Way, such as the luminosity function of the dwarf satellites. The results from the sensitivity analysis are used to train specific model emulators of ChemTreeN, only involving the most relevant input parameters. This allowed us to efficiently explore the input parameter space. A statistical comparison of model outputs and real observables is used to obtain a "best-fitting" parameter set. We consider different Milky-Way-like dark matter halos to account for the dependence of the best-fitting parameter selection process on the underlying merger history of the models. For all formation histories considered, running ChemTreeN with best-fitting parameters produced luminosity functions that tightly fit their observed counterpart. However, only one of the resulting stellar halo models was able to reproduce the observed stellar halo mass within 40 kpc of the Galactic center. On the basis of this analysis, it is possible to disregard certain models, and their corresponding merger histories, as good representations of the underlying merger history of the Milky Way. © 2014. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gómez, FA; Coleman-Smith, CE; O'Shea, BW; Tumlinson, J; Wolpert, RL

Published Date

  • May 20, 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 787 / 1

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1538-4357

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0004-637X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1088/0004-637X/787/1/20

Citation Source

  • Scopus