Interpreting the distance correlation results for the combo-17 survey

Mercedes T. Richards, Donald St P. Richards, Elizabeth Martínez-Gómez

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9 Scopus citations


The accurate classification of galaxies in large-sample astrophysical databases of galaxy clusters depends sensitively on the ability to distinguish between morphological types, especially at higher redshifts. This capability can be enhanced through a new statistical measure of association and correlation, called the distance correlation coefficient, which has more statistical power to detect associations than does the classical Pearson measure of linear relationships between two variables. The distance correlation measure offers a more precise alternative to the classical measure since it is capable of detecting nonlinear relationships that may appear in astrophysical applications. We showed recently that the comparison between the distance and Pearson correlation coefficients can be used effectively to isolate potential outliers in various galaxy data sets, and this comparison has the ability to confirm the level of accuracy associated with the data. In this work, we elucidate the advantages of distance correlation when applied to large databases. We illustrate how the distance correlation measure can be used effectively as a tool to confirm nonlinear relationships between various variables in the COMBO-17 database, including the lengths of the major and minor axes, and the alternative redshift distribution. For these outlier pairs, the distance correlation coefficient is routinely higher than the Pearson coefficient since it is easier to detect nonlinear relationships with distance correlation. The V-shaped scatter plots of Pearson versus distance correlation coefficients also reveal the patterns with increasing redshift and the contributions of different galaxy types within each redshift range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL34
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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