The Sherpa Maximum Likelihood Estimator
A primary goal for the second release of the Chandra Source Catalog is to include X-ray sources with as few as ∼5 photon counts detected in stacked observations of the same field, while maintaining acceptable detection efficiency and false source rates. Aggressive source detection methods will result in detection of many false positive source candidates. Candidate detections will then be sent to a new tool, the Maximum Likelihood Estimator (MLE), to evaluate the likelihood that a detection is a real source. MLE uses the Sherpa modeling and fitting engine to fit a model of a background and source to multiple overlapping candidate source regions. A background model is calculated by simultaneously fitting the observed photon flux in multiple background regions. This model is used to determine the quality of the fit statistic for a background-only hypothesis in the potential source region. The statistic for a background-plus-source hypothesis is calculated by adding a Gaussian source model convolved with the appropriate Chandra point spread function (PSF) and simultaneously fitting the observed photon flux in each observation in the stack. Since a candidate source may be located anywhere in the field of view of each stacked observation, a different PSF must be used for each observation because of the strong spatial dependence of the Chandra PSF. The likelihood of a valid source being detected is a function of the two statistics (for background alone, and for background-plus-source). The MLE tool is an extensible Python module with potential for use by the general Chandra user.
Support of the development of Sherpa is provided by National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the Chandra X-ray Center, which is operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for and on behalf of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under contract NAS8-03060.
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