Three Gravitational Lenses for the Price of One: Enhanced Strong Lensing through Galaxy Clustering
We report the serendipitous discovery of two strong gravitational lens candidates (ACS J160919+6532 and ACS J160910+6532) in deep images obtained with the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope, each less than 40 arcsec from the previously known gravitational lens system CLASS B1608+656. The redshifts of both lens galaxies have been measured with Keck and Gemini: one is a member of a small galaxy group at z~0.63, which also includes the lensing galaxy in the B1608+656 system,
... and the second is a member of a foreground group at z~0.43. By measuring the effective radii and surface brightnesses of the two lens galaxies, we infer their velocity dispersions based on the passively evolving Fundamental Plane (FP) relation. Elliptical isothermal lens mass models are able to explain their image configurations within the lens hypothesis, with a velocity dispersion compatible with that estimated from the FP for a reasonable source-redshift range. Based on the large number of massive early-type galaxies in the field and the number-density of faint blue galaxies, the presence of two additional lens systems around CLASS B1608+656 is not unlikely in hindsight. Gravitational lens galaxies are predominantly early-type galaxies, which are clustered, and the lensed quasar host galaxies are also clustered. Therefore, obtaining deep high-resolution images of the fields around known strong lens systems is an excellent method of enhancing the probability of finding additional strong gravitational lens systems.