Identifying anomalies in gravitational lens time delays

Arthur B. Congdon, Charles Keeton, C. Erik Nordgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We examine the ability of gravitational lens time delays to reveal complex structure in lens potentials. In a previous paper, we predicted how the time delay between the bright pair of images in a "fold" lens scales with the image separation, for smooth lens potentials. Here we show that the proportionality constant increases with the quadrupole moment of the lens potential, and depends only weakly on the position of the source along the caustic. We use Monte Carlo simulations to determine the range of time delays that can be produced by realistic smooth lens models consisting of isothermal ellipsoid galaxies with tidal shear. We can then identify outliers as "time delay anomalies." We find evidence for anomalies in close image pairs in the cusp lenses RX J1131 - 1231 and B1422+231. The anomalies in RX J1131 - 1231 provide strong evidence for substructure in the lens potential, while at this point the apparent anomalies in B1422+231 mainly indicate that the time delay measurements need to be improved. We also find evidence for time delay anomalies in larger-separation image pairs in the fold lenses, B1608+656 and WFI 2033 - 4723, and the cusp lens RX J0911+0551. We suggest that these anomalies are caused by some combination of substructure and a complex lens environment. Finally, to assist future monitoring campaigns we use our smooth models with shear to predict the time delays for all known four-image lenses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-571
Number of pages20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Cosmology: theory
  • Dark matter
  • Galaxies: structure
  • Gravitational lensing: strong
  • Methods: numerical

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