Flashlights: Properties of Highly Magnified Images Near Cluster Critical Curves in the Presence of Dark Matter Subhalos

Liliya L.R. Williams, Patrick L. Kelly, Tommaso Treu, Alfred Amruth, Jose M. Diego, Sung Kei Li, Ashish K. Meena, Adi Zitrin, Thomas J. Broadhurst, Alexei V. Filippenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Dark matter subhalos with extended profiles and density cores, and globular star clusters of mass 106-108 M that live near the critical curves in galaxy cluster lenses can potentially be detected through their lensing magnification of stars in background galaxies. In this work, we study the effect such subhalos have on lensed images, and compare to the case of more well-studied microlensing by stars and black holes near critical curves. We find that the cluster density gradient and the extended mass distribution of subhalos are important in determining image properties. Both lead to an asymmetry between the image properties on the positive- and negative-parity sides of the cluster that is more pronounced than in the case of microlensing. For example, on the negative-parity side, subhalos with cores larger than about 50 pc do not generate any images with magnification above ∼100 outside of the immediate vicinity of the cluster critical curve. We discuss these factors using analytical and numerical analysis, and exploit them to identify observable signatures of subhalos: Subhalos create pixel-to-pixel flux variations of ≳0.1 mag on the positive-parity side of clusters. These pixels tend to cluster around (otherwise invisible) subhalos. Unlike in the case of microlensing, signatures of subhalo lensing can be found up to 1″ away from the critical curves of massive clusters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number200
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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