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Physics and Astronomy


Automating classification of galaxy components is important for understanding the formation and evolution of galaxies. Traditionally, only the larger galaxy structures such as the spiral arms, bulge, and disc are classified. Here we use machine learning (ML) pixel-by-pixel classification to automatically classify all galaxy components within digital imagery of massive spiral galaxy UGC 2885. Galaxy components include young stellar population, old stellar population, dust lanes, galaxy center, outer disc, and celestial background. We test three ML models: maximum likelihood classifier (MLC), random forest (RF), and support vector machine (SVM). We use high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope (HST) digital imagery along with textural features derived from HST imagery, band ratios derived from HST imagery, and distance layers. Textural features are typically used in remote sensing studies and are useful for identifying patterns within digital imagery. We run ML classification models with different combinations of HST digital imagery, textural features, band ratios, and distance layers to determine the most useful information for galaxy component classification. Textural features and distance layers are most useful for galaxy component identification, with the SVM and RF models performing the best. The MLC model performs worse overall but has comparable performance to SVM and RF in some circumstances. Overall, the models are best at classifying the most spectrally unique galaxy components including the galaxy center, outer disc, and celestial background. The most confusion occurs between the young stellar population, old stellar population, and dust lanes. We suggest further experimentation with textural features for astronomical research on small-scale galactic structures.


This is the accepted manuscript version of the article that was published in Advances in Space Research, volume 70, issue 1, in 2022.

Original Publication Information

Robin J. Kwik, Jinfei Wang, Pauline Barmby, Benne W. Holwerda, Galactic component mapping of galaxy UGC 2885 by machine learning classification, Advances in Space Research, Volume 70, Issue 1, 2022, Pages 229-247,