Beyond subhalos: Probing the collective effect of the Universe's small-scale structure with gravitational lensing
Gravitational lensing has emerged as a powerful probe of the matter distribution on subgalactic scales, which itself may contain important clues about the fundamental origins and properties of dark matter. Broadly speaking, two different approaches have been taken in the literature to map the small-scale structure of the Universe using strong lensing, with one focused on measuring the position and mass of a small number of discrete massive subhalos appearing close in projection to lensed images, and the other focused on detecting the collective effect of all the small-scale structures between the lensed source and the observer. In this paper, we follow the latter approach and perform a detailed study of the sensitivity of galaxy-scale gravitational lenses to the ensemble properties of small-scale structure. As in some previous studies, we adopt the language of the substructure power spectrum to characterize the statistical properties of the small-scale density field. We present a comprehensive theory that treats lenses with extended sources as well as those with time-dependent compact sources (such as quasars) in a unified framework for the first time. Our approach uses mode functions to provide both computational advantages and insights about couplings between the lens and source. The goal of this paper is to develop the theory and gain the intuition necessary to understand how the sensitivity to the substructure power spectrum depends on the source and lens properties, with the eventual aim of identifying the most promising targets for such studies.
Physical Review D
- Pub Date:
- July 2019
- Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics;
- High Energy Physics - Phenomenology
- 24 pages + appendices, 12 figures. v2: matches published version