Gravitational Lens Optics

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Science  25 Aug 1989:
Vol. 245, Issue 4920, pp. 824-830
DOI: 10.1126/science.245.4920.824


Several instances of multiple imaging of cosmologically distant sources by intervening galaxies and galaxy clusters have been discovered over the past decade. These "gravitational lenses" have distinctive optical properties. Pointlike sources such as quasars generally produce two or four images when lensed, whereas extended sources such as galaxies produce spectacular arcs and rings. The salient features of most of the observations can be reproduced with the use of simple elliptical lens models that approximate the lenses made by ellipsoidal mass distributions such as are common in the universe. In addition to illustrating simple optics in operation on a cosmological scale, multiple images and arcs provide useful probes of the lensing galaxies and clusters. Also, gravitational lenses can make magnified images of cosmologically distant sources and may eventually furnish important cosmographic data such as the Hubble constant.

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