Weak gravitational flexion

D. J. Bacon*, D. M. Goldberg, B. T.P. Rowe, A. N. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Flexion is the significant third-order weak gravitational lensing effect responsible for the weakly skewed and arc-like appearance of lensed galaxies. Here we demonstrate how flexion measurements can be used to measure galaxy halo density profiles and large-scale structure on non-linear scales, via galaxy-galaxy lensing, dark matter mapping and cosmic flexion correlation functions. We describe the origin of gravitational flexion, and discuss its four components, two of which are first described here. We also introduce an efficient complex formalism for all orders of lensing distortion. We proceed to examine the flexion predictions for galaxy-galaxy lensing, examining isothermal sphere and Navarro-Frenk-White (NFW) profiles and both circularly symmetric and elliptical cases. We show that in combination with shear we can precisely measure galaxy masses and NFW halo concentrations. We also show how flexion measurements can be used to reconstruct mass maps in two-dimensional projection on the sky, and in three dimensions in combination with redshift data. Finally, we examine the predictions for cosmic flexion, including convergence-flexion cross-correlations, and we find that the signal is an effective probe of structure on non-linear scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-428
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2006


  • Dark matter
  • Galaxies: haloes
  • Gravitational lensing
  • Large-scale structure of Universe

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