Volume 551, March 2013
|Number of page(s)||5|
|Section||Cosmology (including clusters of galaxies)|
|Published online||28 February 2013|
On the assumption of Gaussianity for cosmological two-point statistics and parameter dependent covariance matrices
1 Institute for Astronomy, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
2 Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, 2680 Woodlawn Dr., Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
Received: 11 October 2012
Accepted: 14 January 2013
In this brief paper we revisit the Fisher information content of cosmological power spectra or two-point functions of Gaussian fields in order to comment on the assumption of Gaussian estimators and the use of parameter-dependent covariance matrices for parameter inference in the context of precision cosmology. Even though the assumption of a Gaussian likelihood is motivated by the central limit theorem, we discuss that it leads to Fisher information content that violates the Cramér-Rao bound if used consistently, owing to independent but artificial information from the parameter-dependent covariance matrix. At any fixed multipole, this artificial term is shown to become dominant in the case of a large number of correlated fields. While the distribution of the estimators does indeed tend to a Gaussian with a large number of modes, it is shown, however, that its Fisher information content does not, in the sense that their covariance matrix never carries independent information content, precisely because of the non-Gaussian shape of the distribution. In this light, we discuss the use of parameter-dependent covariance matrices with Gaussian likelihoods for parameter inference from two-point statistics. As a rule of thumb, Gaussian likelihoods should always be used with a covariance matrix fixed in parameter space, since only this guarantees that conservative information content is assigned to the observables, and at the same time, prevents biases appearing.
Key words: cosmology: observations / cosmology: theory / cosmological parameters / methods: statistical
© ESO, 2013
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