We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Richard Massey

Massey, R. & Goldberg, D.M. (2008). Weak-lensing ellipticities in a strong-lensing regime. Astrophysical journal letters 673(2): L111-L114.

Author(s) from Durham


It is now routine to measure the weak gravitational lensing shear signal from the mean ellipticity of distant galaxies. However, conversion between ellipticity and shear assumes local linearity of the lensing potential (i.e., that the spatial derivatives of the shear are small), and this condition is not satisfied in some of the most interesting regions of the sky. We extend a derivation of lensing equations to include higher order terms, and assess the level of biases introduced by assuming that first-order weak-lensing theory holds in a relatively strong shear regime. We find that even in a worst-case scenario, a fully linear analysis is accurate to within 1% outside ~1.07 times the Einstein radius of a lens, by deriving an analytic function that can be used to estimate the applicability of any first-order analysis. The effect is too small to explain the discrepancy between weak- and strong-lensing estimates of the mass of the Bullet Cluster, and should not impact cluster surveys for the foreseeable future. In fact, it means that arclets can be used to measure shears closer to a cluster core than has been generally appreciated. However, the bias is significant for galaxy group or galaxy-galaxy lensing applications. At the level of accuracy demanded by dedicated future surveys, it also needs to be considered for measurements of the inner slope of cluster mass distributions and the small-scale end of the mass power spectrum.