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New Paper: A machine-learning photometric classifier for massive stars in nearby galaxies I. The method

This is the first paper that results from my work with the ASSESS team over the last years. It focuses on the development of a machine-learning photometric classifier to characterize massive stars originating from IR (Spitzer) catalogs, which will help us understand the episodic mass loss. The first paper presents the method and the multiple test we performed to understand its capabilities and limitations. Now we proceed with the derivation of the catalogs and their analysis.

A machine-learning photometric classifier for massive stars in nearby galaxies I. The method

Grigoris Maravelias, Alceste Z. Bonanos, Frank Tramper, Stephan de Wit, Ming Yang, Paolo Bonfini

Context. Mass loss is a key parameter in the evolution of massive stars. Despite the recent progress in the theoretical understanding of how stars lose mass, discrepancies between theory and observations still hold. Moreover, episodic mass loss in evolved massive stars is not included in the models while the importance of its role in the evolution of massive stars is currently undetermined.
Aims. A major hindrance to determining the role of episodic mass loss is the lack of large samples of classified stars. Given the recent availability of extensive photometric catalogs from various surveys spanning a range of metallicity environments, we aim to remedy the situation by applying machine learning techniques to these catalogs.
Methods. We compiled a large catalog of known massive stars in M31 and M33 using IR (Spitzer) and optical (Pan-STARRS) photometry, as well as Gaia astrometric information which helps with foreground source detection. We grouped them in 7 classes (Blue, Red, Yellow, B[e] supergiants, Luminous Blue Variables, Wolf-Rayet, and outliers, e.g. QSOs and background galaxies). As this training set is highly imbalanced, we implemented synthetic data generation to populate the underrepresented classes and improve separation by undersampling the majority class. We built an ensemble classifier utilizing color indices as features. The probabilities from three machine-learning algorithms (Support Vector Classification, Random Forests, Multi-layer Perceptron) were combined to obtain the final classification.
Results. The overall weighted balanced accuracy of the classifier is ∼ 83%. Red supergiants are always recovered at ∼ 94%. Blue and Yellow supergiants, B[e] supergiants, and background galaxies achieve ∼ 50 − 80%. Wolf-Rayet sources are detected at ∼ 45% while Luminous Blue Variables are recovered at ∼ 30% from one method mainly. This is primarily due to the small sample sizes of these classes. In addition, the mixing of spectral types, as there are no strict boundaries in the features space (color indices) between those classes, complicates the classification. In an independent application of the classifier to other galaxies (IC 1613, WLM, Sextans A) we obtained an overall accuracy of ∼ 70%. This discrepancy is attributed to the different metallicity and extinction effects of their host galaxies. Motivated by the presence of missing values we investigated the impact of missing data imputation using simple replacement with mean values and an iterative imputor, which proved to be more capable. We also investigated the feature importance to find that r − i and y − [3.6] were the most important, although different classes are sensitive to different features (with potential improvement with additional features).
Conclusions. The prediction capability of the classifier is limited by the available number of sources per class (which corresponds to the sampling of their feature space), reflecting the rarity of these objects and the possible physical links between these massive star phases. Our methodology is also efficient in correctly classifying sources with missing data, as well as at lower metallicities (with some accuracy loss), making it an excellent tool for accentuating interesting objects and prioritizing targets for observations.

The confusion matrix for 54 sources without missing values in the three galaxies (IC 1613, WLM, and Sextans A). We achieve an overall accuracy of ~70%, and we notice that the largest confusion occurs between BSG and YSG. The overall difference in the accuracy compared to that obtained with the M31 and M33 sample is attributed to the photometric errors, and the effect of metallicity and extinction in these galaxies.

arXiv: 2203.08125

New paper: exploring the outbursts of ρ Cas from visual observations

This is a paper that I finally managed to complete. Starting back in 2016 we looked into the light curves for ρ Cas to identify potential correlations with its latest outburst in 2013, but not all data made it through the final paper (Kraus et al. 2019). Given this first analysis and the fact that visual observations cover almost a century of star’s behavior, we continued the study and we looked into the four distinct outbursts. The result is even more interesting as there is a clear trend of shorter and more frequent outbursts, as if ρ Cas is bouncing against the Yellow Void.

Bouncing against the Yellow Void — exploring the outbursts of ρ Cas from visual observations

Grigoris Maravelias and Michaela Kraus

Massive stars are rare but of paramount importance for their immediate environment and their host galaxies. They lose mass from their birth through strong stellar winds up to their spectacular end of their lives as supernovae. The mass loss changes as they evolve and in some phases it becomes episodic or displays outburst activity. One such phase is the Yellow Hypergiants, in which they experience outbursts due to their pulsations and atmosphere instabilities. This is depicted in photometry as a decrease in their apparent magnitude. The object ρ Cassiopeia (Cas) is a bright and well known variable star that has experienced four major outbursts over the last century, with the most recent one detected in 2013. We derived the light curves from both visual and digital observations and we show that with some processing and a small correction (∼0.2 mag) for the visual the two curves match. This highlights the importance of visual observations both because of the accuracy we can obtain and because they fully cover the historic activity (only the last two of the four outbursts are well covered by digital observations) with a homogeneous approach. By fitting the outburst profiles from visual observations we derive the duration of each outburst. We notice a decreasing trend in the duration, as well as shorter intervals between the outbursts. This activity indicates that ρ Cas may be preparing to pass to the next evolutionary phase.

Figure 3.The duration of each outburst (dots) with time(using the minimum dates as identified from the fitting process). There is a trend of shorter outbursts with time (linear model indicated with the violet dashed line). They also seem to occur more frequently, as it is indicated by the time difference between the outbursts (violet arrows).

arXiv: 2112.13158

Contribution to IAUS 366 the origin of outflows in evolved stars

The week 1-5 of November 2021, I (virtually) participated to the IAU Symposium 366 on the origin of outflows in evolved stars. I had the opportunity to present our recently submitted work on a photometric machine-learning classifier.

Contributions to the 15th Hellenic Astronomical Conference

During the 15th Hellenic Astronomical Conference I had the opportunity to present advances in two major topics:

1. Applying machine-learning methods to build a photometric classifier for massive stars in nearby galaxies”  (talk)
2. “Bouncing against the Yellow Void – the case of rho Cas” (poster)

I have also contributed to the following works:

by E. Kyritsis on “A new automated tool for the spectral classification of OB stars”
by Stephan de Wit on “Spectral analysis of evolved massive stars in the SMC and LMC”

New Paper: Evolved Massive Stars at Low-metallicity IV. Using 1.6μm “H-bump” to identify red supergiant stars: a case study of NGC 6822

Evolved Massive Stars at Low-metallicity IV.Using 1.6μm “H-bump” to identify red supergiant stars:a case study of NGC 6822

Ming Yang, Alceste Z. Bonanos, Biwei Jiang, Man I Lam, Jian Gao, Panagiotis Gavras, Grigoris Maravelias, Shu Wang, Xiao-Dian Chen, Frank Tramper, Yi Ren, Zoi T. Spetsieri


We present a case study of using a novel method to identify red supergiant (RSG) candidates in NGC 6822, based on their 1.6 μm “H-bump”. We collected 32 bands of photometric data for NGC 6822 ranging from optical to MIR. By using the theoretical spectra from MARCS, we demonstrate that there is a prominent difference around 1.6 μm (“H-bump”) between low-surface-gravity (LSG) and high-surface-gravity (HSG) targets. Taking advantage of this feature, we identify efficient color-color diagrams (CCDs) of rzH and rzK to separate HSG and LSG targets from crossmatching of optical and NIR data. Moreover, synthetic photometry from ATLAS9 also give similar results. Further separating RSG candidates from the rest of the LSG candidates is done by using semi-empirical criteria on NIR CMDs and resulted in 323 RSG candidates. Meanwhile, the simulation of foreground stars from Besançon models also indicates that our selection criteria is largely free from the contamination of Galactic giants. In addition to the “H-bump” method, we also use the traditional BVR method as a comparison and/or supplement, by applying a slightly aggressive cut to select as much as possible RSG candidates (358 targets). Furthermore, the Gaia astrometric solution is used to constrain the sample, where 181 and 193 targets were selected from the “H-bump” and BVR method, respectively. The percentages of selected targets in both methods are similar as 60\%, indicating the comparable accuracy of the two methods. In total, there are 234 RSG candidates after combining targets from both methods with 140 (60\%) of them in common. The final RSG candidates are in the expected locations on the MIR CMDs, while the spatial distribution is also coincident with the FUV-selected star formation regions, suggesting the selection is reasonable and reliable.

New paper: Evolved Massive Stars at Low-metallicity II. Red Supergiant Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Evolved Massive Stars at Low-metallicity II. Red Supergiant Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Ming Yang, Alceste Z. Bonanos, Bi-Wei Jiang, Jian Gao, Panagiotis Gavras, Grigoris Maravelias, Shu Wang, Xiao-Dian Chen, Frank Tramper, Yi Ren, Zoi T. Spetsieri, Meng-Yao Xue

We present the most comprehensive RSG sample for the SMC up to now, including 1,239 RSG candidates. The initial sample is derived based on a source catalog for the SMC with conservative ranking. Additional spectroscopic RSGs are retrieved from the literature, as well as RSG candidates selected from the inspection of CMDs. We estimate that there are in total ∼ 1,800 or more RSGs in the SMC. We purify the sample by studying the infrared CMDs and the variability of the objects, though there is still an ambiguity between AGBs and RSGs. There are much less RSGs candidates (∼4%) showing PAH emission features compared to the Milky Way and LMC (∼15%). The MIR variability of RSG sample increases with luminosity. We separate the RSG sample into two subsamples (“risky” and “safe”) and identify one M5e AGB star in the “risky” subsample. Most of the targets with large variability are also the bright ones with large MLR. Some targets show excessive dust emission, which may be related to previous episodic mass loss events. We also roughly estimate the total gas and dust budget produced by entire RSG population as ∼1.9(+2.4/−1.1)×10−6 M⊙/yr in the most conservative case. Based on the MIST models, we derive a linear relation between Teff and observed J−KS color with reddening correction for the RSG sample. By using a constant bolometric correction and this relation, the Geneva evolutionary model is compared with our RSG sample, showing a good agreement and a lower initial mass limit of ∼7 M⊙ for the RSG population. Finally, we compare the RSG sample in the SMC and the LMC. Despite the incompleteness of LMC sample in the faint end, the result indicates that the LMC sample always shows redder color (except for the IRAC1−IRAC2 and WISE1−WISE2 colors due to CO absorption) and larger variability than the SMC sample.

arXiv.org: 2005.10108

New paper: Evolved Massive Stars at Low-metallicity I. A Source Catalog for the Small Magellanic Cloud

Evolved Massive Stars at Low-metallicity I. A Source Catalog for the Small Magellanic Cloud

Ming Yang, Alceste Z. Bonanos, Bi-Wei Jiang, Jian Gao, Panagiotis Gavras, Grigoris Maravelias, Yi Ren, Shu Wang, Meng-Yao Xue, Frank Tramper, Zoi T. Spetsieri, Ektoras Pouliasis

We present a clean, magnitude-limited (IRAC1 or WISE1 ≤ 15.0 mag) multiwavelength source catalog for the SMC with 45,466 targets in total, with the purpose of building an anchor for future studies, especially for the massive star populations at low-metallicity. The catalog contains data in 50 different bands including 21 optical and 29 infrared bands, ranging from the ultraviolet to the far-infrared. Additionally, radial velocities and spectral classifications were collected from the literature, as well as infrared and optical variability statistics were retrieved from different projects. The catalog was essentially built upon a 1′′ crossmatching and a 3′′ deblending between the SEIP source list and Gaia DR2 photometric data. Further constraints on the proper motions and parallaxes from Gaia DR2 allowed us to remove the foreground contamination. We estimated that about 99.5\% of the targets in our catalog were most likely genuine members of the SMC. By using the evolutionary tracks and synthetic photometry from MIST and the theoretical J−KS color cuts, we identified 1,405 RSG, 217 YSG and 1,369 BSG candidates in the SMC in five different CMDs, where attention should also be paid to the incompleteness of our sample. We ranked the candidates based on the intersection of different CMDs. A comparison between the models and observational data shows that the lower limit of initial mass for the RSGs population may be as low as 7 or even 6 M⊙ and the RSG is well separated from the AGB population even at faint magnitude, making RSGs a unique population connecting the evolved massive and intermediate stars, since stars with initial mass around 6 to 8 M⊙ are thought to go through a second dredge-up to become AGBs. We encourage the interested reader to further exploit the potential of our catalog

arXiv.org: 1907.06717