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AutoLens Analysis Steps Up for Euclid’s 100 000 Strong Gravitational Lens Challenge

 

The European Space Agency’s Euclid satellite, due for launch in 2020, will set astronomers a huge challenge: to analyse one hundred thousand strong gravitational lenses. The gravitational deflection of light from distant astronomical sources by massive galaxies (strong lenses) along the light path can create multiple images of the source that are not just visually stunning, but are also valuable tools for probing our Universe. Now, in preparation for Euclid’s challenge, researchers from the University of Nottingham have developed 'AutoLens', the first fully-automated analysis software for strong gravitational lenses. James Nightingale will present the first results from AutoLens at the National Astronomy Meeting 2016 in Nottingham on Friday, 1st July.ACS0047  ObsHubble Space Telescope imaging of the strong gravitational lens ER-0047-2808. Pictured in the centre of the image is the strong lens galaxy, whose mass is responsible for the deflection of the background source's light. The multiply-imaged source galaxy can be seen three times, as an extended arc to the south, a smaller arc to the north-east and two compact clumps of the light to the west. ESA/NASA/HST/STScI 

 

"AutoLens has demonstrated its capabilities with this stunning image of a strong gravitational lens system captured by the Hubble Space Telescope," said Nightingale, who developed AutoLens together with his colleague, Dr Simon Dye. "The software's reconstruction of the lensed source reveals in detail a distant pair of star-forming galaxies that are possibly in the early stages of merging. Within the lensed image of the source are small-scale distortions, which encode an imprint of how the lens galaxy's mass is distributed. AutoLens has a novel new approach to exploit this imprinted information and can accurately measure the distribution of dark matter in the lensing galaxy."

 

Historically, the analysis of strongly lensed images has been a very time consuming process, requiring a large amount of manual input to study just one system. To date, only around two hundred strong lens systems have been analysed. AutoLens can be run on ‘massively parallel’ computing architecture that uses multiple processors and requires no user input, so will be able to manage the huge amount of data delivered by the Euclid mission.

 

"Some of astronomy's most important results in the past five years have come from studying a handful of strong lenses. This small sample has allowed us to start to unravel the dark matter content of galaxies and the complex physics that drives their formation and evolution," said Nightingale. "It will be breathtaking to embark on a study of up to one hundred thousand such systems. We can only speculate as to what it will reveal about the nature of dark matter and its role in galaxy evolution."

 

 



Images

Hubble Space Telescope imaging of the strong gravitational lens ER-0047-2808. Pictured in the center of the image is the strong lens galaxy, whose mass is responsible for the deflection of the background source's light. The multiply-imaged source galaxy can be seen three times, as an extended arc to the south, a smaller arc to the north-east and two compact clumps of the light to the west.
Colour image: https://nam2016.org/images/nam2016/Media/Nightingale/ACS0047__Obs.png
Black and white image: https://nam2016.org/images/nam2016/Media/Nightingale/ACS0047__Obs2.png 
AutoLens Source Reconstruction of the strong gravitational lens ER-0047-2808. The source is reconstructed using an adaptive pixel grid, which rebuilds the source's light using free-form pixels of any shape, size or tessellation. The reconstruction reveals two distinct galaxies under-going a major merger in the distant Universe. 
Colour: https://nam2016.org/images/nam2016/Media/Nightingale/ACS0047__SrcRecon2.png 
Black and white: https://nam2016.org/images/nam2016/Media/Nightingale/ACS0047__SrcRecon.png

Image credits: Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained from the data archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute. STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. under NASA contract NAS 5-26555.

 


 

Media contacts

Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Mob: +44 (0)7802 877 699
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Ms Anita Heward
Royal Astronomical Society
Mob: +44 (0)7756 034 243
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Lindsay Brooke
Media Relations Manager (Science)
The University of Nottingham
+44 (0)115 951 5751
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NAM 2016 press office
Tel: +44 (0)115 8466993

An ISDN line and a Globelynx fixed camera are available for radio and TV interviews. To request these, please contact Robert or Anita.


 

Science contacts

James Nightingale
University of Nottingham
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Notes to editors

The RAS National Astronomy Meeting 2016 (NAM 2016, http://nam2016.org) takes place this year at the University of Nottingham from 27 June to 1 July. NAM 2016 brings together more than 550 space scientists and astronomers to discuss the latest research in their respective fields. The conference is principally sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society and the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Follow the conference on Twitter via @rasnam2016

The University of Nottingham (http://nottingham.ac.uk/) has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a "distinct" approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC, http://www.stfc.ac.uk) is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar. STFC's Astronomy and Space Science programme provides support for a wide range of facilities, research groups and individuals in order to investigate some of the highest priority questions in astrophysics, cosmology and solar system science. STFC's astronomy and space science programme is delivered through grant funding for research activities, and also through support of technical activities at STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Centre and RAL Space at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. STFC also supports UK astronomy through the international European Southern Observatory. Follow STFC on Twitter via @stfc_matters

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS, http://www.ras.org.uk), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 4000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

The RAS accepts papers for its journals based on the principle of peer review, in which fellow experts on the editorial boards accept the paper as worth considering. The Society issues press releases based on a similar principle, but the organisations and scientists concerned have overall responsibility for their content.
Follow the RAS on Twitter via @royalastrosoc

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