Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 485, 363-376 (2008/7-2)
Weak lensing goes bananas: what flexion really measures.
SCHNEIDER P. and ER X.
Abstract (from CDS):
In weak gravitational lensing, the image distortion caused by shear measures the projected tidal gravitational field of the deflecting mass distribution. To lowest order, the shear is proportional to the mean image ellipticity. If the image sizes are not small compared to the scale over which the shear varies, higher-order distortions occur, called flexion. For ordinary weak lensing, the observable quantity is not the shear, but the reduced shear, owing to the mass-sheet degeneracy. Likewise, the flexion itself is unobservable. Instead, higher-order image distortions measure the reduced flexion, i.e., derivatives of the reduced shear. We derive the corresponding lens equation in terms of the reduced flexion and calculate the resulting relation between brightness moments of source and image. Assuming an isotropic distribution of source orientations, estimates for the reduced shear and flexion are obtained and then tested with simulations. In particular, the presence of flexion affects the determination of the reduced shear. The results of these simulations yield the amount of bias of the estimators as a function of the shear and flexion. We point out and quantify a fundamental limitation of the flexion formalism in terms of the product of reduced flexion and source size. If this product increases above the derived threshold, multiple images of the source are formed locally, and the formalism breaks down. Finally, we show how a general (reduced) flexion field can be decomposed into its four components. Two of them are due to a shear field, carrying an E- and B-mode in general. The other two components do not correspond to a shear field, and they can also be split up into corresponding E- and B-modes.
gravitational lensing - galaxies: evolution - galaxies: statistics - cosmology: diffuse radiation
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