Department of Statistics Unitmark
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

A Statistical Method for Estimating Luminosity Functions using Truncated Data

Publication Date

October, 2006

Publication Type

Tech Report


Chad M. Schafer


The observational limitations of astronomical surveys lead to significant statistical inference challenges. One such challenge is the estimation of luminosity functions given redshift and absolute magnitude measurements from an irregularly truncated sample of objects. This is a bivariate density estimation problem; we develop here a statistically rigorous method that (1) does not assume a strict parametric form for the bivariate density; (2) does not assume independence between redshift and absolute magnitude (and hence allows evolution of the luminosity function with redshift); (3) does not require dividing the data into arbitrary bins; and (4) naturally incorporates a varying selection function. There is a simple way of estimating the integrated mean squared error of the estimator; smoothing parameters are selected to minimize this quantity. Results are presented from the analysis of a sample of quasars.

(Revised 02/07)