A search for gravitationally lensed supernovae within the Zwicky transient facility public survey

M. R. Magee, A. Sainz de Murieta, T. E. Collett, W. Enzi

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Strong gravitational lensing of supernovae is exceedingly rare. To date, only a handful of lensed supernovae are known. Despite this, lensed supernovae have emerged as a promising method for measuring the current expansion rate of the Universe and breaking the Hubble tension. We present an extensive search for gravitationally lensed supernovae within the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) public survey, covering 15,215 transients with good light curves discovered during four years of observations. We crossmatch a catalogue of known and candidate lens galaxies with our sample and find three coincident sources, which were due to chance alignment. To search for supernovae magnified by unknown lenses, we test multiple methods suggested in the literature for the first time on real data. This includes selecting objects with extremely red colours, those that appear inconsistent with the host galaxy redshift, and those with bright absolute magnitudes inferred from the host galaxy redshift. We find a few hundred candidates, most of which are due to contamination from activate galactic nuclei, bogus detections, or unlensed supernovae. The false positive rate from these methods presents significant challenges for future surveys. In total, 132 unique transients were identified across all of our selection methods that required detailed manual rejection, which would be infeasible for larger samples. Overall, we do not find any compelling candidates for lensed supernovae, which is broadly consistent with previous estimates for the rate of lensed supernovae from the ZTF public survey alone and the number expected to pass the selection cuts we apply.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-560
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date23 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • gravitational lensing: strong
  • supernovae: general

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