Analytic time delays and H0 estimates for gravitational lenses

Hans J. Witt, Shude Mao, Charles R. Keeton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


We study gravitational lens time delays for a general family of lensing potentials, which includes the popular singular isothermal elliptical potential and singular isothermal elliptical density distribution but allows general angular structure. Using a novel approach, we show that the time delay can be cast in a very simple form, depending only on the observed image positions. Including an external shear changes the time delay in proportion to the shear strength, and varying the radial profile of the potential changes the time delay approximately linearly. These analytic results can be used to obtain simple estimates of the time delay and the Hubble constant in observed gravitational lenses. The naive estimates for four of five time delay lenses show surprising agreement with each other and with local measurements of H0; the complicated Q0957 + 561 system is the only outlier. The agreement suggests that it is reasonable to use simple isothermal lens models to infer H0, although it is still important to check this conclusion by examining detailed models and by measuring more lensing time delays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-103
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Nov 20 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Distance scale
  • Gravitational lensing


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