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Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have discovered the first known case of a distant galaxy being magnified by a quasar acting as a gravitational lens. The discovery is based in part on observations done at the W. M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii's Mauna Kea.
The first such gravitational lens was discovered in 1979, and it produced an image of a distant quasar that was magnified and split by a foreground galaxy. Hundreds of cases of gravitationally lensed quasars are now known. But, until the current work, the reverse process — a background galaxy being lensed by the massive host galaxy of a foreground quasar — had never been detected.
The Optimal Gravitational Lens Telescope J. Surdej, C. Delacroix, P. Coleman, M. Dominik, S. Habraken, C. Hanot, H. Le Coroller, D. Mawet, H. Quintana, T. Sadibekova, D. Sluse (Submitted on 5 Jun 2010) Given an observed gravitational lens mirage produced by a foreground deflector (cf. galaxy, quasar, cluster,...), it is possible via numerical lens inversion to retrieve the real source image, taking full advantage of the magnifying power of the cosmic lens. This has been achieved in the past for several remarkable gravitational lens systems. Instead, we propose here to invert an observed
multiply imaged source directly at the telescope using an ad-hoc optical instrument
which is described in the present paper. Compared to the previous method, this should allow one to detect fainter source features as well as to use such an optimal gravitational lens telescope to explore even fainter objects located behind and near the lens. Laboratory and numerical experiments illustrate this new approach.