Distributions of galaxy spectral types in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

C. W. Yip*, A. J. Connolly, A. S. Szalay, T. Budávari, M. SubbaRao, J. A. Frieman, R. C. Nichol, A. M. Hopkins, D. G. York, S. Okamura, J. Brinkmann, I. Csabai, A. R. Thakar, M. Fukugita, Ž Ivezić

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

112 Citations (Scopus)


We perform an objective classification of 170,000 galaxy spectra in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) using the Karhunen-Loève (KL) transform. With about one-sixth of the total set of galaxy spectra that will be obtained by the survey, we are able to carry out the most extensive analysis of its kind to date. The formalism proposed by Connolly and Szalay is adopted to correct for gappy regions in the spectra and to derive eigenspectra and eigencoefficients. From this analysis, we show that this gap-correction formalism leads to a converging set of eigenspectra and KL-repaired spectra. Furthermore, KL eigenspectra of galaxies are found to be convergent not only as a function of iteration, but also as a function of the number of randomly selected galaxy spectra used in the analysis. From these data a set of 10 eigenspectra of galaxy spectra are constructed, with rest-wavelength coverage 3450-8350 A. The eigencoefficients describing these galaxies naturally place the spectra into several classes defined by the plane formed by the first three eigencoefficients of each spectrum. Spectral types corresponding to different Rubble types and galaxies with extreme emission lines are identified for the 170,000 spectra and are shown to be complementary to existing spectral classifications. From a nonparametric classification technique, we find that the population of galaxies can be divided into three classes that correspond to early late-type through intermediate late-type galaxies. This finding is believed to be related to the color separation of SDSS galaxies discussed in earlier works. Bias in the spectral classifications due to the aperture spectroscopy in the SDSS is small and within the signal-to-noise limit for a majority of galaxies, except for the reddest nearby galaxies and large galaxies (>30 kpc) with prominent emissions. The mean spectra and eigenspectra derived from this work can be downloaded from the SDSS Web site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-609
Number of pages25
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number2 1784
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxies: general
  • Methods: data analysis
  • Techniques: spectroscopic

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    Yip, C. W., Connolly, A. J., Szalay, A. S., Budávari, T., SubbaRao, M., Frieman, J. A., ... Ivezić, Ž. (2004). Distributions of galaxy spectral types in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Astronomical Journal, 128(2 1784), 585-609. https://doi.org/10.1086/422429