Intrinsic correlation of galaxy shapes: implications for weak lensing measurements

A Heavens*, A Refregier, C Heymans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Weak gravitational lensing is now established as a powerful method to measure mass fluctuations in the universe. It relies on the measurement of small coherent distortions of the images of background galaxies. Even low-level correlations in the intrinsic shapes of galaxies could however produce a significant spurious lensing signal. These correlations are also interesting in their own right, since their detection would constrain models of galaxy formation. Using 3 x 10(4)-10(5) haloes found in N-body simulations, we compute the correlation functions of the intrinsic ellipticity of spiral galaxies assuming that the disc is perpendicular to the angular momentum of the dark matter halo. We also consider a simple model for elliptical galaxies, in which the shape of the dark matter halo is assumed to be the same as that of the light. For deep lensing surveys with median redshifts similar to1, we find that intrinsic correlations of similar to 10(-4) on angular scales theta similar to 0.1-10 arcmin are generally below the expected lensing signal, and contribute only a small fraction of the excess signals reported on these scales. On larger scales we find limits to the intrinsic correlation function at a level similar to 10(-5), which gives a (model-dependent) range of separations for which the intrinsic signal is about an order of magnitude below the ellipticity correlation function expected from weak lensing. Intrinsic correlations are thus negligible on these scales for dedicated weak lensing surveys. For wider but shallower surveys such as SuperCOSMOS, APM and SDSS, we cannot exclude the possibility chat intrinsic correlations could dominate the lensing signal. We discuss how such surveys could be used to calibrate the importance of this effect, as well as study spin-spin correlations of spiral galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-656
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2000

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • galaxies : formation
  • galaxies : fundamental parameters
  • galaxies : statistics cosmology : observations
  • gravitational lensing


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