Modeling the Gaia Color-Magnitude Diagram with Bayesian Neural Flows

We demonstrate an algorithm for learning a flexible color-magnitude diagram from noisy parallax and photometry measurements using a normalizing flow, a deep neural network capable of learning an arbitrary multi-dimensional probability distribution. We present a catalog of 640M photometric distance posteriors to nearby stars derived from this data-driven model using Gaia DR2 photometry and parallaxes. Dust estimation and dereddening is done iteratively inside the model and without prior distance information, using the Bayestar map. The signal-to-noise (precision) of distance measurements improves on average by more than 48% over the raw Gaia data, and we also demonstrate how the accuracy of distances have improved over other models, especially in the noisy-parallax regime. Applications are discussed, including significantly improved Milky Way disk separation and substructure detection. We conclude with a discussion of future work, which exploits the normalizing flow architecture to allow us to exactly marginalize over missing photometry, enabling the inclusion of many surveys without losing coverage.

Miles D. Cranmer, Richard Galvez, Lauren Anderson, David N. Spergel, Shirley Ho