Journal Article

Galaxy number counts and implications for strong lensing

C. D. Fassnacht, L. V. E. Koopmans and K. C. Wong

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 410, issue 4, pages 2167-2179
Published in print February 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online January 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Galaxy number counts and implications for strong lensing

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We compare galaxy number counts in Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) fields containing moderate-redshift (0.2 < z < 1.0) strong gravitational lenses with those in two control samples: (1) the first square degree of the COSMOS survey, comprising 259 ACS fields and (2) 20 ‘pure-parallel’ fields randomly located on the sky. Through a Bayesian analysis we determine the expectation values (μ0) and confidence levels of the underlying number counts for a range of apertures and magnitude bins. Our analysis has produced the following results: (i) we infer that our control samples are not consistent, with the number counts in the COSMOS sample being significantly higher than in the pure-parallel sample for 21 ≤F814W≤ 23. This result matches those found in previous analyses of COSMOS data using different techniques. (ii) We find that small-sized apertures, centred on strong lenses, are overdense compared with randomly placed apertures in the control samples, even compared to the COSMOS sample. Correcting for the local clustering of elliptical galaxies, based on the average two-point correlation function, reduces this overdensity to the 1–2σ level. Thus, the overdensity of galaxies seen along a typical line of sight to a lens can be explained mostly by the natural clustering of galaxies, rather than being due to lenses lying along otherwise biased lines of sight. However, a larger sample of lenses is needed to see if the remaining bias persists when the lens-field uncertainties are smaller. (iii) There is considerable scatter in the lines of sight to individual lens systems, but quantities that are linearly dependent on the external convergence (e.g. H0) should become unbiased if the extra galaxies that cause the bias can be accounted for in the lens models either through direct modelling or via an informed prior on the external convergence. The number counts can be used to set such an informed prior.

Keywords: gravitational lensing: strong; distance scale; large-scale structure of Universe

Journal Article.  9526 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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