Mass-sheet degeneracy, power-law models and external convergence: Impact on the determination of the Hubble constant from gravitational lensing
Argelander-Institut für Astronomie, Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany
Received: 13 May 2013
Accepted: 12 September 2013
The light travel time differences in strong gravitational lensing systems allows an independent determination of the Hubble constant. This method has been successfully applied to several lens systems. The formally most precise measurements are, however, in tension with the recent determination of H0 from the Planck satellite for a spatially flat six-parameters ΛCDM cosmology. We reconsider the uncertainties of the method, concerning the mass profile of the lens galaxies, and show that the formal precision relies on the assumption that the mass profile is a perfect power law. Simple analytical arguments and numerical experiments reveal that mass-sheet like transformations yield significant freedom in choosing the mass profile, even when exquisite Einstein rings are observed. Furthermore, the characterization of the environment of the lens does not break that degeneracy which is not physically linked to extrinsic convergence. We present an illustrative example where the multiple imaging properties of a composite (baryons + dark matter) lens can be extremely well reproduced by a power-law model having the same velocity dispersion, but with predictions for the Hubble constant that deviate by ~20%. Hence we conclude that the impact of degeneracies between parametrized models have been underestimated in current H0 measurements from lensing, and need to be carefully reconsidered.
Key words: cosmological parameters / gravitational lensing: strong
© ESO, 2013