A 7 deg(2) survey for galaxy-scale gravitational lenses with the HST imaging archive(star)
We present the results of a visual search for galaxy-scale gravitational lenses in similar to 7 deg(2) of Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images. The data set comprises the whole imaging data ever taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) in the filter F814W (I-band) up to 2011 August 31, i.e. 6.03 deg(2) excluding the field of the Cosmic Evolution Survey which has been the subject of a separate visual search. In addition, we have searched for lenses in the whole Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) near-IR imaging data set in all filters (1.01 deg(2)) up to the same date. Our primary goal is to provide a sample of lenses with a broad range of different morphologies and lens-source brightness contrast in order to estimate a lower limit to the number of galaxy-scale strong lenses in the future Euclid survey in its VIS band. Our criteria to select lenses are purely morphological as we do not use any colour or redshift information. The final candidate selection is very conservative hence leading to a nearly pure but incomplete sample. We find 49 new lens candidates: 40 in the ACS images and 9 in the WFC3 images. Out of these, 16 candidates are secure lenses owing to their striking morphology, 21 more are very good candidates and 12 more have morphologies compatible with gravitational lensing but also compatible with other astrophysical objects such as ring and chain galaxies or mergers. Interestingly, some lens galaxies include low surface brightness galaxies, compact groups and mergers. The imaging data set is heterogeneous in depth and spans a broad range of galactic latitudes. It is therefore insensitive to cosmic variance and allows us to estimate the number of galaxy-scale strong lenses on the sky for a putative survey depth, which is the main result of this work. Because of the incompleteness of the sample, the estimated lensing rates should be taken as lower limits. Using these, we anticipate that a 15 000 deg(2) space survey such as Euclid will find at least 60 000 galaxy-scale strong lenses down to a limiting AB magnitude of I = 24.5 (10 Sigma) or I = 25.8 (3 Sigma).