The CASSOWARY spectroscopy survey: A new sample of gravitationally lensed galaxies in SDSS

Daniel P. Stark, Matthew Auger, Vasily Belokurov, Tucker Jones, Brant Robertson, Richard S. Ellis, David J. Sand, Alexei Moiseev, Will Eagle, Thomas Myers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Bright gravitationally lensed galaxies provide our most detailed view of galaxies at high redshift. The very brightest (r < 21) systems enable high spatial and spectral resolution measurements, offering unique constraints on the outflow energetics, metallicity gradients and stellar populations in high-redshift galaxies. Yet as a result of the small number of ultrabright z ≃ 2 lensed systems with confirmed redshifts, most detailed spectroscopic studies have been limited in their scope. With the goal of increasing the number of bright lensed galaxies available for detailed follow-up, we have undertaken a spectroscopic campaign targeting wide separation (≳3 arcsec) galaxy-galaxy lens candidates within the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Building on the earlier efforts of our Cambridge and Sloan Survey Of Wide Arcs in Thesky survey, we target a large sample of candidate galaxy-galaxy lens systems in SDSS using a well-established search algorithm which identifies blue arc-like structures situated around luminous red galaxies. In this paper, we present a new redshift catalogue containing 29 lensed sources in SDSS confirmed through spectroscopic follow-up of candidate galaxy-galaxy lens systems. Included in this new sample are two of the brightest galaxies (r=19.6 and 19.7) known at z ≃ 2, a low metallicity (12 + log (O/H) ≃ 8.0) extreme nebular line emitting galaxy at z = 1.43, and numerous systems for which detailed follow-up will be possible. The source redshifts span 0.9<z<2.5 (median redshift of 1.9), and their optical magnitudes are in the range 19.6 ≲ r ≲ 22.3. We present a brief source-by-source discussion of the spectroscopic properties extracted from our confirmatory spectra and discuss some initial science results. Preliminary lens modelling reveals average source magnifications of 5-10 times. With more than 50 gravitationally lensed z ≳ 1 galaxies now confirmed within SDSS, it will soon be possible for the first time to develop generalized conclusions from detailed spectroscopic studies of the brightest lensed systems at high redshift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1040-1056
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Evolution - galaxies
  • Formation - galaxies
  • Galaxies
  • High-redshift - cosmology
  • Observations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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