Gravitationally lensed quasars in Gaia: I. Resolving small-separation lenses

06 Apr 2018

Gaia’s exceptional resolution (FWHM ~ 0.1 arcsec) allows identification and cataloguing of the multiple images of gravitationally lensed quasars. We investigate a sample of 49 known lensed quasars in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) footprint, with image separations less than 2 arcsec, and find that eight are detected with multiple components in the first Gaia data release. In the case of the 41 single Gaia detections, we generally are able to distinguish these lensed quasars from single quasars when comparing Gaia flux and position measurements to those of Pan-STARRS and SDSS. This is because the multiple images of these lensed quasars are typically blended in ground-based imaging and therefore the total flux and a flux-weighted centroid are measured, which can differ significantly from the fluxes and centroids of the individual components detected by Gaia. We compare the fluxes through an empirical fit of Pan-STARRS griz photometry to the wide optical Gaia bandpass values using a sample of isolated quasars. The positional offsets are calculated from a recalibrated astrometric SDSS catalogue. Applying flux and centroid difference criteria to spectroscopically confirmed quasars, we discover four new sub-arcsecond-separation lensed quasar candidates which have two distinct components of similar colour in archival Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope or Hyper Suprime Cam data. Our method based on single Gaia detections can be used to identify the ~1400 lensed quasars with image separation above 0.5 arcsec, expected to have only one image bright enough to be detected by Gaia.