Energy balance SED modelling can be effective at high redshifts regardless of UV-FIR offsets

P. Haskell, D. J. B. Smith, R. K. Cochrane, C. C. Hayward, D. Anglés-Alcázar

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Recent works have suggested that energy balance spectral energy distribution (SED) fitting codes may be of limited use for studying high-redshift galaxies for which the observed ultraviolet and far-infrared emission are offset (spatially 'decoupled'). It has been proposed that such offsets could lead energy balance codes to miscalculate the overall energetics, preventing them from recovering such galaxies' true properties. In this work, we test how well the SED fitting code magphys can recover the stellar mass, star formation rate (SFR), specific SFR, dust mass, and luminosity by fitting 6706 synthetic SEDs generated from four zoom-in simulations of dusty, high-redshift galaxies from the FIRE project via dust continuum radiative transfer. Comparing our panchromatic results (using wavelengths 0.4-500 μm, and spanning 1 < z < 8) with fits based on either the starlight (m) or dust (m) alone, we highlight the power of considering the full range of multiwavelength data alongside an energy balance criterion. Overall, we obtain acceptable fits for 83 per cent of the synthetic SEDs, though the success rate falls rapidly beyond z ≈ 4, in part due to the sparser sampling of the priors at earlier times since SFHs must be physically plausible (i.e. shorter than the age of the universe). We use the ground truth from the simulations to show that when the quality of fit is acceptable, the fidelity of magphys estimates is independent of the degree of UV/FIR offset, with performance very similar to that previously reported for local galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1535-1552
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date3 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • astro-ph.GA
  • methods: data analysis
  • galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • galaxies: high-redshift


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