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Gravitational lensing effects of supermassive black holes in cluster environments

Mahler, Guillaume; Natarajan, Priyamvada; Jauzac, Mathilde; Richard, Johan

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Priyamvada Natarajan

Mathilde Jauzac

Johan Richard


This study explores the gravitational lensing effects of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in galaxy clusters. While the presence of central SMBHs in galaxies is firmly established, recent work from high-resolution simulations predict the existence of an additional population of wandering SMBHs. Though the masses of these SMBHs are a minor perturbation on the larger scale and individual galaxy scale dark matter components in the cluster, they can impact statistical lensing properties and individual lensed image configurations. Probing for these potentially observable signatures, we find that SMBHs imprint detectable signatures in rare, higher order strong lensing image configurations although they do not manifest any statistically significant detectable evidence in either the magnification distribution or the integrated shear profile. Investigating specific lensed image geometries, we report that a massive, near point-like, potential of an SMBH causes the following detectable effects: (i) image splitting leading to the generation of extra images; (ii) positional and magnification asymmetries in multiply imaged systems; and (iii) the apparent disappearance of a lensed counter image. Of these, image splitting inside the cluster tangential critical curve, is the most prevalent notable observational signature. We demonstrate these possibilities in two cases of observed giant arcs in SGAS J003341.5+024217 and RX J1347.5−1145, wherein specific image configurations seen can be reproduced with SMBHs. Future observations with high-resolution instrumentation (e.g. MAVIS-Very Large Telescope, MICADO-Extremely Large Telescope, and the upgraded ngVLA, along with data from the Euclid and Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescopes and the Rubin LSST Observatory are likely to allow us to probe these unique yet rare SMBHs lensing signatures.


Mahler, G., Natarajan, P., Jauzac, M., & Richard, J. (2023). Gravitational lensing effects of supermassive black holes in cluster environments. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 518(1), 54-65.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 20, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 28, 2022
Publication Date 2023-01
Deposit Date Jan 31, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 31, 2023
Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Print ISSN 0035-8711
Electronic ISSN 1365-2966
Publisher Royal Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 518
Issue 1
Pages 54-65


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Copyright Statement
© The Author(s) 2022.<br /> Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative<br /> Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,<br /> provided the original work is properly cited.

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