Direct observation of cosmic strings via their strong gravitational lensing effect - II. Results from the HST/ACS image archive

Eric Morganson, Phil Marshall, Tommaso Treu, Tim Schrabback, Roger D. Blandford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have searched 4.5 deg2 of archival Hubble Space Telescope/Advanced Camera for Surveys (HST/ACS) images for cosmic strings, identifying close pairs of similar, faint galaxies and selecting groups whose alignment is consistent with gravitational lensing by a long, straight string. We find no evidence for cosmic strings in five large-area HST treasury surveys (covering a total of 2.22 deg2) or in any of 346 multifilter guest observer images (1.18 deg2). Assuming that simulations accurately predict the number of cosmic strings in the Universe, this non-detection allows us to place upper limits on the dimensionless Universal cosmic string tension of Gμ/c2 < 2.3 × 10-6 and cosmic string density of Ωs < 2.1 × 10-5 at the 95 per cent confidence level (marginalizing over the other parameter in each case). We find four dubious cosmic string candidates in 318 single-filter guest observer images (1.08 deg2), which we are unable to conclusively eliminate with existing data. The confirmation of any of these candidates as cosmic strings would imply Gμ/c2 ≈ 10-6 and Ωs ≈ 10-5. However, we estimate that there is at least a 92 per cent chance that these string candidates are random alignments of galaxies. If we assume that these candidates are indeed false detections, our final limits on Gμ/c2 and Ωs fall to 6.5 × 10-7 and 7.3 × 10-6, respectively. Due to the extensive sky coverage of the HST/ACS image archive, the above limits are universal. They are quite sensitive to the number of fields being searched and could be further reduced by more than a factor of 2 using forthcoming HST data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2452-2472
Number of pages21
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Gravitational lensing: strong
  • Surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Direct observation of cosmic strings via their strong gravitational lensing effect - II. Results from the HST/ACS image archive'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this