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I see the SED being referred to as several different things and now I am confused about what it actually is and what are its units. In particular, I find the SED Wikipedia page not understandable.

The Flux $F$ of a star/galaxy is related to its luminosity $L$ by $$F=\dfrac{L}{4\pi d_L^2}\,,$$ where $d_L$ is the luminosity distance. If we differentiate the quantities and remembering that the emitted wavelength $\lambda_{em}$ is related to the observed one by $\lambda_{obs}=(1+z)\lambda_{em}$, where $z$ is the redshift, we can have two quantities:

  • $\dfrac{dF}{d\lambda_{obs}}\equiv f_{\lambda}$
  • $\dfrac{dL}{d\lambda_{em}}\equiv l_{\lambda}$

I think $f_{\lambda}$ is the specta (units of [Energy][Time]$^{-1}$[Lenght]$^{-3}$) and $l_{\lambda}$ is the SED (and therefore has units of [Energy][Time]$^{-1}$[Lenght]$^{-1}$). Is this correct? Can you give me some resources (eg. papers or books) where this is written down? Thank you.

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  • $\begingroup$ SED = Spectral Energy Distribution. It can be in flux units or in luminosity units, but is quoted as flux per unit wavelength (or sometimes flux per unit frequency). $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Mar 2 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ @RobJeffries, I am sorry but I didn't understand it. Since it is "distribution", I assumed it is always per unit of wavelength (or frequency). Additionally, it has a name and $l_{\lambda}$ and $f_{\lambda}$ are two intrinsically different things, so how can we call the same to both? $\endgroup$ – Catarina Alves Mar 2 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ Because one is just the other multiplied by $4\pi d^2$. We call a spectrum a spectrum, but that can mean a lot of different things. I guess you might distinguish between an observed SED (always flux) and an intrinsic SED. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Mar 2 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ The most important thing is: both show exactly the same frequency (or wavelength) dependence - multiplied by a constant factor (the distance to the source does not change in this regard; its distance is only important when you need the overall luminosity) $\endgroup$ – planetmaker Mar 2 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ @CatarinaAlves the photon count matters when you are dealing with a quantum sensor, such as a CCD or the human retina. These things detect photons, not "wave energy" $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Mar 3 at 12:56

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