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Journal Article

Identifying kinematic structures in simulated galaxies using unsupervised machine learning


Nelson,  Dylan
Galaxy Formation, MPI for Astrophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Du, M., Ho, L. C., Zhao, D., Shi, J., Debattista, V. P., Hernquist, L., et al. (2019). Identifying kinematic structures in simulated galaxies using unsupervised machine learning. The Astrophysical Journal, 884(2): 129. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/ab43cc.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-A2B9-3
Galaxies host a wide array of internal stellar components, which need to be decomposed accurately in order to understand their formation and evolution. While significant progress has been made with recent integral-field spectroscopic surveys of nearby galaxies, much can be learned from analyzing the large sets of realistic galaxies now available through state-of-the-art hydrodynamical cosmological simulations. We present an unsupervised machine-learning algorithm, named auto-GMM, based on Gaussian mixture models, to isolate intrinsic structures in simulated galaxies based on their kinematic phase space. For each galaxy, the number of Gaussian components allowed by the data is determined through a modified Bayesian information criterion. We test our method by applying it to prototype galaxies selected from the cosmological simulation IllustrisTNG. Our method can effectively decompose most galactic structures. The intrinsic structures of simulated galaxies can be inferred statistically by non-human supervised identification of galaxy structures. We successfully identify four kinds of intrinsic structures: cold disks, warm disks, bulges, and halos. Our method fails for barred galaxies because of the complex kinematics of particles moving on bar orbits.