SNITCH: seeking a simple, informative star formation history inference tool

R. J. Smethurst, M. Merrifield, C. J. Lintott, K. L. Masters, B. D. Simmons, A. Fraser-McKelvie, T. Peterken, M. Boquien, R. A. Riffel, N. Drory

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Deriving a simple, analytic galaxy star formation history (SFH) using observational data is a complex task without the proper tool to hand. We therefore present SNITCH, an open source code written in Python, developed to quickly (~2 minutes) infer the parameters describing an analytic SFH model from the emission and absorption features of a galaxy spectrum dominated by star formation gas ionisation. SNITCH uses the Flexible Stellar Population Synthesis models of Conroy et al. (2009), the MaNGA Data Analysis Pipeline and a Markov Chain Monte Carlo method in order to infer three parameters (time of quenching, rate of quenching and model metallicity) which best describe an exponentially declining quenching history. This code was written for use on the MaNGA spectral data cubes but is customisable by a user so that it can be used for any scenario where a galaxy spectrum has been obtained, and adapted to infer a user-defined analytic SFH model for specific science cases. Herein we outline the rigorous testing applied to SNITCH and show that it is both accurate and precise at deriving the SFH of a galaxy spectra. The tests suggest that SNITCH is sensitive to the most recent epoch of star formation but can also trace the quenching of star formation even if the true decline does not occur at an exponential rate. With the use of both an analytical SFH and only five spectral features, we advocate that this code be used as a comparative tool across a large population of spectra, either for integral field unit data cubes or across a population of galaxy spectra.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3590-3603
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date30 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2019


  • astro-ph.GA


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