Galaxy-lens determination of H0: constraining density slope in the context of the mass sheet degeneracy

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Gravitational lensing offers a competitive method to measure H0 with the goal of 1% precision. A major obstacle comes in the form of lensing degeneracies, such as the mass sheet degeneracy (MSD), which make it possible for a family of density profiles to reproduce the same lensing observables but return different values of H0. The modeling process artificially selects one choice from this family, potentially biasing H0. The effect is more pronounced when the profile of a given lens is not perfectly described by the lens model, which will always be the case to some extent. To explore this, we quantify the bias and spread in H0 by creating quads from two-component mass models and fitting them with a power-law ellipse+shear model. We find that the bias does not correspond to the estimate one would calculate by transforming the profile into a power law near the image radius. We also emulate the effect of including stellar kinematics by performing fits where the slope is constrained to the true value. Informing the fit using the true value near the image radius can introduce substantial bias (0-23% depending on the model). We confirm using Jeans arguments that kinematic constraints can result in a biased value of H0, though the degree of bias depends on the region kinematic modeling probes in specific lenses. We conclude that lensing degeneracies manifest through commonplace modeling approaches in a more complicated way than is assumed in the literature. If stellar kinematics incorrectly break the MSD, their inclusion may introduce more bias than their omission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number045
JournalJournal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 IOP Publishing Ltd and Sissa Medialab.


  • galaxy dynamics
  • gravitational lensing


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