The infrared Einstein ring in the gravitational lens MG J1131 + 0456 and the death of the dusty lens hypothesis

C. S. Kochanek, E. E. Falco, C. D. Impey, J. Lehár, B. A. McLeod, H. W. Rix, C. R. Keeton, J. A. Muñoz, C. Y. Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We have obtained and modeled NICMOS images of the Einstein ring lens system MG J1131 + 0456, which show that its lens galaxy is an H = 18.6 mag, transparent, early-type galaxy at a redshift of zl ≃ 0.84; it has a major axis effective radius Re = 0″.7 ± 0″.1, projected axis ratio b/a = 0.6 ± 0.1, and major axis P.A. = 55° ± 9°. The lens is the brightest member of a group of at least seven galaxies with similar R-I and I-H colors, and the two closest group members produce sufficient tidal perturbations to explain the shape of the ring. The host galaxy of the MG J1131 + 0456 source is a zs ≳ 2 extremely red object (ERO) that is lensed into optical and infrared rings of dramatically different morphologies. These differences imply a strongly wavelength-dependent source morphology that could be explained by embedding the host in a larger, dusty disk. At 1.6 μm (H), the ring is spectacularly luminous, with a total observed flux of H = 17.4 mag and a demagnified flux of 19.3 mag, corresponding to a 1-2 L* galaxy at the probable source redshift of zs ≳ 2. Thus, it is primarily the stellar emission of the radio source host galaxy that produces the overall colors of two of the reddest radio lenses, MG J1131 + 0456 and JVAS B1938 + 666, aided by the suppression of optical active galactic nucleus emission by dust in the source galaxy. The dusty lens hypothesis - that many massive early-type galaxies with 0 ≲ zl ≲ 1 have large, uniform dust opacities - is ruled out.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)692-705
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2000


  • Dust, extinction
  • Galaxies: photometry
  • Gravitational lensing
  • Infrared: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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