Standard Workflow

The workflow is setup to run the fitting on many sources efficiently by splitting the full catalog into a number of smaller files. This allows distributing the fitting across cores. There are manual steps to allow for the refitting, fixing issues, etc without rerunning everything. This workflow has been tested on large (e.g., PHAT) and small (e.g. METAL) datasets.

Production Conda Environment

Using a dedicated conda environment for production BEAST runs may be desirable. Such an environment provides a way to ensure that production runs are reproducible by fixing the versions of all the software used. The instructions below assume that the astroconda channel is being used.

Create a conda environment. Here we name it to include the BEAST version.

$ conda create -n beast_v1.3.2 python=3.6

Activate the environment after all the packages are finished installing.

$ source activate beast_v1.3.2

Install dependencies using conda (better for speed)

$ conda install astropy scipy h5py matplotlib cython

Next, install the BEAST. You have three options:

Option 1: Use pip to install the production version of the beast (currently v1.3.2)

$ pip install beast==1.3.2

Option 2: Get the latest production branch, which can be ahead of pipy version

$ pip install git+

Option 3: If you’ll be doing development, fork the beast (as described here), navigate into the first beast folder, and do this command. Any changes you make will be immediately reflected in your calls to the BEAST code. Note that you can make separate environments for development and production modes.

$ python develop

The BEAST production version is now ready for use. Note, you need to activate this conda environment every time you want to use this installed version.


Working location

Setup a working location, usually a subdirectory. For reference, a template is the ‘metal_production’ subdirectory in beast/examples.

In this location, at a minimum you will need the following files:

  • a “production” version of
    • Provides commandline options for sub region files
  • assembles the commands below into a script
  • a “production” version of that will have name/filter fields automatically filled in by beast_production_wrapper
  • symbolic link to the beast directory in the beast repository
$ ln -s /location/beast/beast/ beast

Before running the BEAST, you will need to modify this file to specify the required parameters for generating models and fitting data. These parameters are described in the beast setup documentation. The fields for project, obsfile, astfile, filters, and basefilters will be filled in by

This is a wrapper for each of the commands described below. You may choose to run each of those commands individually, but this conveniently packages them into one file. If you use this wrapper, you should edit several items in the file:

  • field_names: used to identify photometry files and create BEAST files
  • gst_filter_names: labels for the filters used in your photometry file (e.g., ‘X_RATE’)
  • beast_filter_names: the corresponding long names used by the BEAST
  • settings for the source density map: pixel size, filter, magnitude range
  • settings for the background map: pixel dimensions, reference image
  • settings for splitting the catalog by source density: filter, number of sources per file
  • settings for the trimming/fitting batch scripts: number of files, nice level

You can (and should!) read about the individual functions below before running beast_production_wrapper:

$ run

The first thing it does is use to create a file. This will be imported as needed in the functions called by the wrapper. As noted above, five of the datamodel fields will be updated, so ensure that the other fields in have the desired values.

The wrapper will proceed through each of the functions below. At three points, you will need to manually run things independently of the wrapper. It will not continue running subsequent functions until it finds that the necessary steps have been taken.

  • Creating ASTs (if a fake star catalog doesn’t exist)
  • running the batch trimming scripts
  • running the batch fitting scripts

Once you have completed each of these, run the wrapper again. It will skip past the steps that it has already processed, and resume at the point where you left off. In the case of the batch scripts, if you only partially completed them, it will re-generate new scripts for the remaining trimming/fitting (and tell you which ones are new), and pause again.

Note of warning: if you are using this wrapper for multiple fields, check that the proper version of is in place before running the batch trimming/fitting scripts. For instance, if you have recently used the wrapper to do part of the processing for field_A, and you want to start the batch fitting script for field_B, re-run the wrapper for field_B to make sure that refers to the information for field_B.


The data need to have source density information added as it is common for the observation model (scatter and bias) to be strongly dependent on source density due to crowding/confusion noise. The background may also be important in some situations, so there is code to calculate it as well.

Adding source density or background to observations

Create a new version of the observations that includes a column with the source density. The new observation file includes only sources that have measurements in all bands (columns that match ‘X_RATE’). In theory, sources without measurements in all bands is the result of non-overlapping observations. The BEAST is based on fitting sources with the same selection function, in this case measurements in all bands.

A number of source density images are also created. These include images that map the source density of objects with zero fluxes in different bands (or any band).

Command to create the observed catalog with source density column with a pixel scale of 5 arcsec using the ‘datafile.fits’ catalog.

$ ./beast/tools/ sourceden -catfile datafile.fits --pixsize 5.

Split up observations by source density

The observed catalog should be split into separate files for each source density. In addition, each source density catalog is split into a set of sub files to have at most ‘n_per_file’ sources. The sources are sorted by the ‘sort_col’ flux before splitting to put sources with similar brightness together. This splitting into sub files sorted by flux allows for trimming the BEAST physics+observation model removing objects that are too bright or too faint to fit any of the sources in the file. In addition, this allows for running the BEAST fitting in parallel with each sub file on a different core.

Command to create the the source density split files

$ ./beast/tools/ --n_per_file 6250 \
         --sort_col F475W_RATE datafile_with_sourceden.fits

Adding background to observations

Create a new version of the observations that includes a column with the background level. This is done by calculating the median background for stars that fall in each spatial bin. The code will output a new catalog, an hdf5 file with the background maps and grid information, and some diagnostic plots.

Command to create the observed catalog with background column with a 15x15 pixel array using the ‘datafile.fits’ catalog and the ‘image.fits’ reference image.

$ ./beast/tools/ background -catfile datafile.fits --npix 15 \
        -reference image.fits

Plotting the background map onto a reference image

To check if the background (or source density) map makes sense, the ‘tileplot’ subcommand of the same script can be used. If the output of one of the previous commands was ‘map_name.hd5’, then use

$ ./beast/tools/ tileplot map_name.hd5 -image image.fits --colorbar 'background'


Physics model

Generate the full physics model grid. Needed for the fitting and generation of the artificial star test (AST) inputs. The ‘0 0’ arguments are dummy values.

$ ./ -p obscat.fits 0 0

Observation model

The observation model is generally based on artificial star tests (ASTs). ASTs are artificial sources inserted into the observations and extracted with the same software that was used for the observed photometry catalog. This ensures that the observation model has the same selection function as the data.

There are 3 different flavors of observation models.

  1. ‘Splinter’: A very simple (and likely not very good) model that assumes the noise is a fraction of the model SED flux and there is no bias. No ASTs are used.
  2. ‘Toothpick’: The AST results are assumed to be independent between different bands (even if they are not). The ASTs results are binned in log(flux) bins and the average bias and standard deviation is tabulated and used to compute the bias and noise for each model in the physics grid.
  3. ‘Trunchen’: The covariance between bands is measured using the AST results. The input AST SEDs are assumed to have been chosen from the BEAST physics model grid and are expected to sparsely sample the full model grid. The ASTs should be run simultaneously with all bands and it assumed that there are multiple ASTs run for the same model. The covariance between the bands is approximated with a multi-variate Gaussian. The bias and a multi-variate Gaussian is computed for each model in the physic grid by interpolating between the sparse grid computed from the AST results.

Create the AST input list

To be added.

Compute the ASTs

Done separately with the same code that was used to extract the source photometry.

Split up the ASTs by source density

To be added.

Currently the workflow assumes a single AST file for all the source densities.

Create the observation models for each source density

To be added.

Create a single observation model

This assumes that the ASTs do not have a strong dependence on source density. This could be a good approximation if the source density does not change much over the observation area or is low everywhere. The ‘0 0’ arguments are dummy values.

$ ./ -o datafile.fits 0 0

Trimming for speed

Trim the full model grid for each source density split file

The physics+observation model can be trimmed of sources that are so bright or so faint (compared to min/max flux in the observation file) that they will by definition produce effectively zero likelihood fits. Such trimming will speed up the fitting.

The source density split sub files are organized such that the range of fluxes is minimized in each sub file. This allows for trimming and faster fitting.

The trimming can take significant time to run. In addition, reading in the full physics+observation model can be slow and such reading can be minimized by producing multiple trimmed models with a single read. A specific tool is provided to setup batch files for this trimming and to do the actual trimming.

This code sets up batch files for submission to the ‘at’ queue on linux (or similar) systems. The projectname (e.g., ‘PHAT’) provides a portion of the batch file names. The datafile and astfile are the observed photometry file (not sub files) and file with the ASTs in them. The optional input seds_fname can be used to specify the file with the physics model grid, which overrides the default filename when you wish to use one model grid for multiple fields. A subdirectory in the project directory is created with a joblist file for submission to the batch queue and smaller files used by the trimming code.

The joblist file can be split into smaller files if submission to multiple cores is desired. Use the ‘split’ commandline tool. The optional ‘nice’ input allows you to prepend a ‘nice’ option, expecially useful if you’re utilizing shared computing resources.

$ ./beast/tools/ projectname datafile.fits \
     astfile.fits --num_subtrim 5 --nice 19

Once the batch files are created, then the joblist can be submitted to the queue. The beast/tools/ code is called and trimmed versions of the physics and observation models are created in the project directory.

$ at -f project/trim_batch_jobs/XX_joblist now


The fitting is done for each sub file separately. Code in the tools directory can be used to create the needed set of batch files for submission to a queue. In addition, this code will check and see if the fitting has already been done or was interrupted for the sub files. Only sub files that have not been fit or where the fitting was interrupted will be added to the batch files. The number of sub files to be run on each core is a command line argument (the runs will are serial on the core).

$ ./beast/tools/ projectname datafile.fits \
  --num_percore 2 --nice 19

The jobs can be submitted to the batch queue via:

$ at -f projectname/fit_batch_jobs/beast_batch_fit_X.joblist now


Create the merged stats file

The stats (catalog of fit parameters) files can then be merged into a single file for the region. This only merges the stats output files, but not the pdf1d or lnp files (see the next section).

$ beast/tools/ filebase

where the filebase where it is the first portion of the output stats filenames (e.g., filebase_sdx-x_subx_stats.fits).

Reorganize the results into spatial region files

The output files from the BEAST with this workflow are organized by source density and brightness. This is not ideal for finding sources of interest or performing ensemble processing. A more useful organization is by spatial region. The large amount of BEAST output information makes it best to have individual files for each spatial region. Code to do this spatial reordering is provided in two parts. The 1st spatially reorders the results for each source density/brightness BEAST run into files for each spatial region. The 2nd condenses the multiple individual files for each spatial region into the minimal set (stats, pdf1d, and lnp).

Divide each source density/brightness file into files of spatial regions with 10”x10” pixels.

$ beast/tools/
   --stats_filename filebase_stats.fits
   --region_filebase filebase_
   --output_filebase spatial/filebase
   --reg_size 10.0

Condense the multiple files for each spatial region into the minimal set. Each spatial region will have files containing the stats, pdf1d, and lnp results for the stars in that region.

$ beast/tools/
   --filedir spatial

You may wish to use these files as inputs for the MegaBEAST.