The scatter in the galaxy-halo connection: a machine learning analysis

Harry Desmond*, Richard Stiskalek*, Deaglan Bartlett*, Dhayaa Anbajagane*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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We apply machine learning (ML), a powerful method for uncovering complex correlations in high-dimensional data, to the galaxy–halo connection of cosmological hydrodynamical simulations. The mapping between galaxy and halo variables is stochastic in the absence of perfect information, but conventional ML models are deterministic and hence cannot capture its intrinsic scatter. To overcome this limitation, we design an ensemble of neural networks with a Gaussian loss function that predict probability distributions, allowing us to model statistical uncertainties in the galaxy–halo connection as well as its best-fitting trends. We extract a number of galaxy and halo variables from the Horizon-AGN and IllustrisTNG100-1 simulations and quantify the extent to which knowledge of some subset of one enables prediction of the other. This allows us to identify the key features of the galaxy–halo connection and investigate the origin of its scatter in various projections. We find that while halo properties beyond mass account for up to 50 per cent of the scatter in the halo-to-stellar mass relation, the prediction of stellar half-mass radius or total gas mass is not substantially improved by adding further halo properties. We also use these results to investigate semi-analytic models for galaxy size in the two simulations, finding that assumptions relating galaxy size to halo size or spin are not successful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4026–4045
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • methods: numerical
  • galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • galaxies: haloes
  • dark matter
  • UKRI
  • STFC
  • ST/K000373/1
  • ST/R002363/1
  • ST/R001014/1


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