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Approximate Inference for Constructing Astronomical Catalogs from Images

by   Jeffrey Regier, et al.

We present a new, fully generative model for constructing astronomical catalogs from optical telescope image sets. Each pixel intensity is treated as a Poisson random variable with a rate parameter that depends on the latent properties of stars and galaxies. These latent properties are themselves random, with scientific prior distributions constructed from large ancillary datasets. We compare two procedures for posterior inference: Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) and variational inference (VI). MCMC excels at quantifying uncertainty while VI is 1000x faster. Both procedures outperform the current state-of-the-art method for measuring celestial bodies' colors, shapes, and morphologies. On a supercomputer, the VI procedure efficiently uses 665,000 CPU cores (1.3 million hardware threads) to construct an astronomical catalog from 50 terabytes of images.


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Code Repositories


Scalable inference for a generative model of astronomical images

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