Simultaneous estimation of photometric redshifts and sed parameters: Improved techniques and a realistic error budget

Viviana Acquaviva, Anand Raichoor, Eric Gawiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We seek to improve the accuracy of joint galaxy photometric redshift estimation and spectral energy distribution (SED) fitting. By simulating different sources of uncorrected systematic errors, we demonstrate that if the uncertainties in the photometric redshifts are estimated correctly, so are those on the other SED fitting parameters, such as stellar mass, stellar age, and dust reddening. Furthermore, we find that if the redshift uncertainties are over(under)-estimated, the uncertainties in SED parameters tend to be over(under)-estimated by similar amounts. These results hold even in the presence of severe systematics and provide, for the first time, a mechanism to validate the uncertainties on these parameters via comparison with spectroscopic redshifts. We propose a new technique (annealing) to re-calibrate the joint uncertainties in the photo-z and SED fitting parameters without compromising the performance of the SED fitting + photo-z estimation. This procedure provides a consistent estimation of the multi-dimensional probability distribution function in SED fitting + z parameter space, including all correlations. While the performance of joint SED fitting and photo-z estimation might be hindered by template incompleteness, we demonstrate that the latter is "flagged" by a large fraction of outliers in redshift, and that significant improvements can be achieved by using flexible stellar populations synthesis models and more realistic star formation histories. In all cases, we find that the median stellar age is better recovered than the time elapsed from the onset of star formation. Finally, we show that using a photometric redshift code such as EAZY to obtain redshift probability distributions that are then used as priors for SED fitting codes leads to only a modest bias in the SED fitting parameters and is thus a viable alternative to the simultaneous estimation of SED parameters and photometric redshifts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • galaxies: distances and redshifts
  • galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • galaxies: statistics


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