Microlensing of an extended source by a power-law mass distribution

Arthur B. Congdon, Charles R. Keeton, S. J. Osmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Microlensing promises to be a powerful tool for studying distant galaxies and quasars. As the data and models improve, there are systematic effects that need to be explored. Quasar continuum and broad-line regions may respond differently to microlensing due to their different sizes; to understand this effect, we study microlensing of finite sources by a mass function of stars. We find that microlensing is insensitive to the slope of the mass function but does depend on the mass range. For negative-parity images, diluting the stellar population with dark matter increases the magnification dispersion for small sources and decreases it for large sources. This implies that the quasar continuum and broad-line regions may experience very different microlensing in negative-parity lensed images. We confirm earlier conclusions that the surface brightness profile and geometry of the source have little effect on microlensing. Finally, we consider non-circular sources. We show that elliptical sources that are aligned with the direction of shear have larger magnification dispersions than sources with perpendicular alignment, an effect that becomes more prominent as the ellipticity increases. Elongated sources can lead to more rapid variability than circular sources, which raises the prospect of using microlensing to probe source shape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-272
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Dark matter
  • Galaxies: structure
  • Gravitational lensing
  • Quasars: general

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