JWST's PEARLS: Mothra, a new kaiju star at z = 2.091 extremely magnified by MACS0416, and implications for dark matter models

Jose M. Diego, Bangzheng Sun, Haojing Yan, Lukas J. Furtak, Erik Zackrisson, Liang Dai, Patrick Kelly, Mario Nonino, Nathan Adams, Ashish K. Meena, Steven P. Willner, Adi Zitrin, Seth H. Cohen, Jordan C.J. D'Silva, Rolf A. Jansen, Jake Summers, Rogier A. Windhorst, Dan Coe, Christopher J. Conselice, Simon P. DriverBrenda Frye, Norman A. Grogin, Anton M. Koekemoer, Madeline A. Marshall, Nor Pirzkal, Aaron Robotham, Michael J. Rutkowski, Russell E. Ryan, Scott Tompkins, Christopher N.A. Willmer, Rachana Bhatawdekar

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We report the discovery of Mothra, an extremely magnified monster star, likely a binary system of two supergiant stars, in one of the strongly lensed galaxies behind the galaxy cluster MACS J0416.1-2403. Mothra is in a galaxy with spectroscopic redshift z = 2.091 in a portion of the galaxy that is parsecs away from the cluster caustic. The binary star is observed only on the side of the critical curve with negative parity but has been detectable for at least eight years, implying the presence of a small lensing perturber. Microlenses alone cannot explain the earlier observations of this object made with the Hubble Space Telescope. A larger perturber with a mass of at least 104 M⊙ offers a more satisfactory explanation. Based on the lack of perturbation on other nearby sources in the same arc, the maximum mass of the perturber is 2.5×106 M⊙, making this the smallest substructure constrained by lensing at z > 0.3. The existence of this millilens is fully consistent with expectations from standard cold dark matter cosmology. On the other hand, the existence of such a small substructure in a cluster environment has implications for other dark matter models. In particular, warm dark matter models with particle masses below 8.7 keV are excluded by our observations. Similarly, axion dark matter models are consistent with the observations only if the axion mass is in the range 0.5×10-22 eV < ma < 5×10-22 eV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA31
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023

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  • Dark matter
  • Gravitational lensing: strong
  • Stars: massive


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