The DESI Survey Validation: Results from Visual Inspection of the Quasar Survey Spectra

David M. Alexander, Tamara M. Davis, E. Chaussidon, V. A. Fawcett, Alma X. Gonzalez-Morales, Ting-Wen Lan, Christophe Yeche, S. Ahlen, J. N. Aguilar, E. Armengaud, S. Bailey, D. Brooks, Z. Cai, R. Canning, A. Carr, S. Chabanier, Marie-Claude Cousinou, K. Dawson, A. de la Macorra, A. DeyBiprateep Dey, G. Dhungana, A. C. Edge, S. Eftekharzadeh, K. Fanning, James Farr, A. Font-Ribera, J. Garcia-Bellido, Lehman Garrison, E. Gaztanaga, Satya Gontcho A Gontcho, C. Gordon, Stefany Guadalupe Medellin Gonzalez, J. Guy, Hiram K. Herrera-Alcantar, L. Jiang, S. Juneau, Naim Karacayli, R. Kehoe, T. Kisner, A. Kovacs, M. Landriau, Michael E. Levi, C. Magneville, P. Martini, Aaron M. Meisner, M. Mezcua, R. Miquel, P. Montero Camacho, J. Moustakas, Andrea Munoz-Gutierrez, Adam D. Myers, S. Nadathur, L. Napolitano, J. D. Nie, N. Palanque-Delabrouille, Z. Pan, W. J. Percival, I. Perez-Rafols, C. Poppett, F. Prada, Cesar Ramirez-Perez, C. Ravoux, D. J. Rosario, M. Schubnell, Gregory Tarle, M. Walther, B. Weiner, S. Youles, Zhimin Zhou, H. Zou, Siwei Zou

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A key component of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) survey validation (SV) is a detailed visual inspection (VI) of the optical spectroscopic data to quantify key survey metrics. In this paper we present results from VI of the quasar survey using deep coadded SV spectra. We show that the majority (~70%) of the main-survey targets are spectroscopically confirmed as quasars, with ~16% galaxies, ~6% stars, and ~8% low-quality spectra lacking reliable features. A non-negligible fraction of the quasars are misidentified by the standard DESI spectroscopic pipeline but we show that the majority can be recovered using post-pipeline "afterburner" quasar-identification approaches. We combine these "afterburners" with our standard pipeline to create a modified pipeline to improve the overall quasar completeness. At the depth of the main DESI survey both pipelines achieve a good-redshift purity (reliable redshifts measured within 3000 km/s) of ~99%; however, the modified pipeline recovers ~94% of the visually inspected quasars, as compared to just ~86% from the standard pipeline. We demonstrate that both pipelines achieve an overall redshift precision and accuracy of ~100 km/s and ~70 km/s, respectively. We constructed composite spectra to investigate why some quasars are missed by the standard spectroscopic pipeline and find that they are more host-galaxy dominated and/or dust reddened than the standard-pipeline quasars. We also show example spectra to demonstrate the overall diversity of the DESI quasar sample and provide strong-lensing candidates where two targets contribute to a single DESI spectrum.
Original languageEnglish
Article number124
Number of pages23
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2023


  • astro-ph.GA
  • astro-ph.CO
  • UKRI
  • STFC
  • ST/T000244/1
  • ST/S505365/1


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