Dark Matter under the Microscope: Constraining Compact Dark Matter with Caustic Crossing Events

Jose M. Diego, Nick Kaiser, Tom Broadhurst, Patrick L. Kelly, Steve Rodney, Takahiro Morishita, Masamune Oguri, Timothy W. Ross, Adi Zitrin, Mathilde Jauzac, Johan Richard, Liliya Williams, Jesus Vega-Ferrero, Brenda Frye, Alexei V. Filippenko

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70 Scopus citations


A galaxy cluster acts as a cosmic telescope over background galaxies but also as a cosmic microscope magnifying the imperfections of the lens. The diverging magnification of lensing caustics enhances the microlensing effect of substructure present within the lensing mass. Fine-scale structure can be accessed as a moving background source brightens and disappears when crossing these caustics. The recent discovery of a distant lensed star near the Einstein radius of the galaxy cluster MACSJ1149.5+2223 allows a rare opportunity to reach subsolar-mass microlensing through a supercritical column of cluster matter. Here we compare these observations with high-resolution ray-tracing simulations that include stellar microlensing set by the observed intracluster starlight and also primordial black holes that may be responsible for the recently observed LIGO events. We explore different scenarios with microlenses from the intracluster medium and black holes, including primordial ones, and examine strategies to exploit these unique alignments. We find that the best constraints on the fraction of compact dark matter (DM) in the small-mass regime can be obtained in regions of the cluster where the intracluster medium plays a negligible role. This new lensing phenomenon should be widespread and can be detected within modest-redshift lensed galaxies so that the luminosity distance is not prohibitive for detecting individual magnified stars. High-cadence Hubble Space Telescope monitoring of several such optimal arcs will be rewarded by an unprecedented mass spectrum of compact objects that can contribute to uncovering the nature of DM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number25
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 10 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Juan M. Lopez, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Gary Bernstein, Evencio Mediavilla, and the anonymous referee for inspiring discussions and useful comments. J.M.D. acknowledges the support of projects AYA2015-64508-P (MINECO/FEDER, UE), AYA2012-39475-C02-01, and the consolider project CSD2010-00064 funded by the Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad. J.M.D. acknowledges the hospitality of the Physics Department at the University of Pennsylvania for hosting him during the preparation of this work. T.J.B. gratefully acknowledges the Visiting Research Professor Scheme at the University of Hong Kong. M.O. is supported in part by World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI Initiative), MEXT, Japan, and JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers 26800093 and 15H05892. M.J. acknowledges support by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (grant number ST/L00075X/1). Support for S.R. through HST programs GO-13386, GO-14199, and GO-14208 was provided by NASA through grants from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. A.V.F. and P.L.K. were supported by NASA/HST grants GO-14041, GO-14199, GO-14208, GO-14528, GO-14872, and GO-14922 from STScI; they are also grateful for financial assistance from the Christopher R. Redlich Fund, the TABASGO Foundation, and the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science (U.C. Berkeley).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • Galaxies
  • dark matter
  • galaxies: clusters: intracluster medium
  • gravitational lensing: micro
  • stars: black holes


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