Galaxy density profiles and shapes - II. Selection biases in strong lensing surveys

Rachel Mandelbaum, Glenn Van De Ven, Charles R. Keeton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Many current and future astronomical surveys will rely on samples of strong gravitational lens systems to draw conclusions about galaxy mass distributions. We use a new strong lensing pipeline (presented in Paper I of this series) to explore selection biases that may cause the population of strong lensing systems to differ from the general galaxy population. Our focus is on point-source lensing by early-type galaxies with two mass components (stellar and dark matter) that have a variety of density profiles and shapes motivated by observational and theoretical studies of galaxy properties. We seek not only to quantify but also to understand the physics behind selection biases related to: galaxy mass, orientation and shape; dark matter profile parameters such as inner slope and concentration; and adiabatic contraction. We study how all of these properties affect the lensing Einstein radius, total cross-section, quad/double ratio and image separation distribution, with a flexible treatment of magnification bias to mimic different survey strategies. We present our results for two families of density profiles: cusped and deprojected Sérsic models. While we use fixed lens and source redshifts for most of the analysis, we show that the results are applicable to other redshift combinations, and we also explore the physics of how our results change for very different redshifts. We find significant (factors of several) selection biases with mass; orientation, for a given galaxy shape at fixed mass; cusped dark matter profile inner slope and concentration; concentration of the stellar and dark matter deprojected Sérsic models. Interestingly, the intrinsic shape of a galaxy does not strongly influence its lensing cross-section when we average over viewing angles. Our results are an important first step towards understanding how strong lens systems relate to the general galaxy population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-657
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular
  • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxies: photometry
  • Galaxies: structure
  • Gravitational lensing

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