We measure the impact of source galaxy clustering on higher order summary statistics of weak gravitational lensing data. By comparing simulated data with galaxies that either trace or do not trace the underlying density field, we show that this effect can exceed measurement uncertainties for common higher order statistics for certain analysis choices. We evaluate the impact on different weak lensing observables, finding that third moments and wavelet phase harmonics are more affected than peak count statistics. Using Dark Energy Survey (DES) Year 3 (Y3) data, we construct null tests for the source-clustering-free case, finding a p-value of p = 4 × 10-3 (2.6σ) using third-order map moments and p = 3 × 10-11 (6.5σ) using wavelet phase harmonics. The impact of source clustering on cosmological inference can be either included in the model or minimized through ad hoc procedures (e.g. scale cuts). We verify that the procedures adopted in existing DES Y3 cosmological analyses were sufficient to render this effect negligible. Failing to account for source clustering can significantly impact cosmological inference from higher order gravitational lensing statistics, e.g. higher order N-point functions, wavelet-moment observables, and deep learning or field-level summary statistics of weak lensing maps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L115-L121
Number of pages7
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number1
Early online date10 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • cosmology: observations

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