The redshift distribution of galaxy lenses in known gravitational lens systems provides a powerful test that can potentially discriminate amongst cosmological models. However, applications of this elegant test have been curtailed by two factors: our ignorance of how galaxies evolve with redshift, and the absence of methods to deal with the effect of incomplete information in lensing systems. In this paper, we investigate both issues in detail. We explore how to extract the properties of evolving galaxies, assuming that the cosmology is well determined by other techniques. We propose a new nested Monte Carlo method to quantify the effects of incomplete data. We apply the lens-redshift test to an improved sample of seventy lens systems derived from recent observations, primarily from the SDSS, SLACS and the CLASS surveys. We find that the limiting factor in applying the lens-redshift test derives from poor statistics, including incomplete information samples and biased sampling. Many lenses that uniformly sample the underlying true image separation distribution will be needed to use this test as a complementary method to measure the value of the cosmological constant or the properties of evolving galaxies. Planned future surveys by missions like the SNAP satellite or LSST are likely to usher in a new era for strong lensing studies that utilize this test. With expected catalogues of thousands of new strong lenses, the lens-redshift test could offer a powerful tool to probe cosmology as well as galaxy evolution.
New Journal of Physics
- Pub Date:
- December 2007
- 17 pages, 10 figures, 3 tables. Invited contribution to the "Gravitational Lensing" Focus Issue of the New Journal of Physics. Minor revisions to match accepted version by the journal