An X-ray spectral classification algorithm with application to young stellar clusters

S. M. Hojnacki, J. H. Kastner, G. Micela, E. D. Feigelson, S. M. LaLonde

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11 Scopus citations


A large volume of low signal-to-noise, multidimensional data is available from the CCD imaging spectrometers aboard the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the X-Ray Multimirror Mission (XMM-Newton). To make progress analyzing this data, it is essential to develop methods to sort, classify, and characterize the vast library of X-ray spectra in a nonparametric fashion (complementary to current parametric model fits). We have developed a spectral classification algorithm that handles large volumes of data and operates independently of the requirement of spectral model fits. We use proven multivariate statistical techniques including principal component analysis and an ensemble classifier consisting of agglomerative hierarchical clustering and A-means clustering applied for the first time for spectral classification. The algorithm positions the sources in a multidimensional spectral sequence and then groups the ordered sources into clusters based on their spectra. These clusters appear more distinct for sources with harder observed spectra. The apparent diversity of source spectra is reduced to a three-dimensional locus in principal component space, with spectral outliers falling outside this locus. The algorithm was applied to a sample of 444 strong sources selected from the 1616 X-ray emitting sources detected in deep Chandra imaging spectroscopy of the Orion Nebula Cluster. Classes form sequences in NH, AV, and accretion activity indicators, demonstrating that the algorithm efficiently sorts the X-ray sources into a physically meaningful sequence. The algorithm also isolates important classes of very deeply embedded, active young stellar objects, and yields trends between X-ray spectral parameters and stellar parameters for the lowest mass, pre-main-sequence stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)585-598
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Apr 10 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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