Precision measurements of the cluster red sequence using an error-corrected gaussian mixture model

Jiangang Hao, Benjamin P. Koester, Timothy A. McKay, Eli S. Rykoff, Eduardo Rozo, August Evrard, James Annis, Matthew Becker, Michael Busha, David Gerdes, David E. Johnston, Erin Sheldon, Risa H. Wechsler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The red sequence is an important feature of galaxy clusters and plays a crucial role in optical cluster detection. Measurement of the slope and scatter of the red sequence are affected both by selection of red sequence galaxies and measurement errors. In this paper, we describe a new error-corrected Gaussian Mixture Model for red sequence galaxy identification. Using this technique, we can remove the effects of measurement error and extract unbiased information about the intrinsic properties of the red sequence. We use this method to select red sequence galaxies in each of the 13,823 clusters in the maxBCG catalog, and measure the red sequence ridgeline location and scatter of each. These measurements provide precise constraints on the variation of the average red galaxy populations in the observed frame with redshift. We find that the scatter of the red sequence ridgeline increases mildly with redshift, and that the slope decreases with redshift. We also observe that the slope does not strongly depend on cluster richness. Using similar methods, we show that this behavior is mirrored in a spectroscopic sample of field galaxies, further emphasizing that ridgeline properties are independent of environment. These precise measurements serve as an important observational check on simulations and mock galaxy catalogs. The observed trends in the slope and scatter of the red sequence ridgeline with redshift are clues to possible intrinsic evolution of the cluster red sequence itself. Most importantly, the methods presented in this work lay the groundwork for further improvements in optically based cluster cosmology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-758
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Methods: data analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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