Fitting Analysis using Differential evolution Optimization (FADO):
Astronomy and Astrophysics
The goal of population spectral synthesis (PSS) is to decipher from the spectrum of a galaxy the mass, age and metallicity of its constituent stellar populations. This technique has been established as a fundamental tool in extragalactic research. It has been extensively applied to large spectroscopic data sets, notably the SDSS, leading to important insights into the galaxy assembly history. However, despite significant improvements over the past decade, all current PSS codes suffer from two
... s suffer from two major deficiencies that inhibit us from gaining sharp insights into the star-formation history (SFH) of galaxies and potentially introduce substantial biases in studies of their physical properties (e.g., stellar mass, mass-weighted stellar age and specific star formation rate). These are i) the neglect of nebular emission in spectral fits, consequently, ii) the lack of a mechanism that ensures consistency between the best-fitting SFH and the observed nebular emission characteristics of a star-forming (SF) galaxy. In this article, we present FADO (Fitting Analysis using Differential evolution Optimization): a conceptually novel, publicly available PSS tool with the distinctive capability of permitting identification of the SFH that reproduces the observed nebular characteristics of a SF galaxy. This so-far unique self-consistency concept allows us to significantly alleviate degeneracies in current spectral synthesis. The innovative character of FADO is further augmented by its mathematical foundation: FADO is the first PSS code employing genetic differential evolution optimization. This, in conjunction with other unique elements in its mathematical concept (e.g., optimization of the spectral library using artificial intelligence, convergence test, quasi-parallelization) results in key improvements with respect to computational efficiency and uniqueness of the best-fitting SFHs.