Gravitational Lensing in the Era of Big Data

Topic: Extragalactic Astrophysics

Session Title: Gravitational Lensing in the Era of Big Data


Gravitational lensing has long established itself as a powerful and versatile astrophysical tool. Over the past several decades, astronomers have employed lensing to explore a variety of (astro)physical processes: mass maps of galaxy clusters have revealed the Universe’s large-scale structure, time delay measurements of galaxy-scale lenses have constrained cosmology (and the oft-debated value of the Hubble constant), while tensions between lensing measurements and theoretical predictions of substructure abundance (at large and small scales) provide new insights into the nature of dark matter and test our current cosmological model of the Universe. At the same time, lenses act as “cosmic telescopes”, offering a unique glimpse into the early Universe, enhancing our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution. 

The importance of lensing in astronomy is evident from the number of highly-utilised lensing programs (such as ALCS, BELLS, BUFFALO, CASTLES, CLASH, H0LiCOW, SLACS, and SGAS) in existence. Historically, the number of known lenses has been at a moderate (but manageable) level, providing comfortable data sets for study. However, this paradigm is rapidly changing, with new and ongoing missions from (e.g.) HST, JWST, Euclid, ALMA, LSST/Rubin, and the Nancy Grace Roman telescope expected to discover hundreds of thousands of new cluster- and galaxy-scale lenses in the near future, covering previously unavailable wavelength regimes and imaging resolutions. 

This rapidly increasing sample size will provide countless avenues to explore, allowing us, for example, to compare a robust data set to the latest dark matter and hydrodynamical cosmological simulations of our Universe, thereby providing precise measurements of cosmological parameters in a competitive way. However, without new analytical and computational techniques, we will quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data on hand. 

In this session, we will bring together observers, modellers, and theorists working with gravitational lenses in order to take stock of our present understanding of the technique, identify gaps in our knowledge, discuss ongoing and evolving science cases, and prepare for the rich new datasets that will soon be on the horizon. 

Organiser(s): David Lagattuta, Nency Patel, Catherine Cerny, Marcus Halson, Stephane Werner, Jess Doppel, Mathilde Jauzac; (Durham University)


Session 1: Tuesday 16th July, 15:00 – 17:00