Finding strong lenses in CFHTLS using convolutional neural networks

Colin Jacobs, Karl Glazebrook, Thomas Collett, Anupreeta More, Christopher McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

380 Downloads (Pure)


We train and apply convolutional neural networks, a machine learning technique developed to learn from and classify image data, to Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey (CFHTLS) imaging for the identification of potential strong lensing systems. An ensemble of four convolutional neural networks was trained on images of simulated galaxy-galaxy lenses. The training sets consisted of a total of 62,406 simulated lenses and 64,673 non-lens negative examples generated with two different methodologies. The networks were able to learn the features of simulated lenses with accuracy of up to 99.8% and a purity and completeness of 94-100% on a test set of 2000 simulations. An ensemble of trained networks was applied to all of the 171 square degrees of the CFHTLS wide field image data, identifying 18,861 candidates including 63 known and 139 other potential lens candidates. A second search of 1.4 million early type galaxies selected from the survey catalog as potential deflectors, identified 2,465 candidates including 117 previously known lens candidates, 29 confirmed lenses/high-quality lens candidates, 266 novel probable or potential lenses and 2097 candidates we classify as false positives. For the catalog-based search we estimate a completeness of 21-28% with respect to detectable lenses and a purity of 15%, with a false-positive rate of 1 in 671 images tested. We predict a human astronomer reviewing candidates produced by the system would identify ~20 probable lenses and 100 possible lenses per hour in a sample selected by the robot. Convolutional neural networks are therefore a promising tool for use in the search for lenses in current and forthcoming surveys such as the Dark Energy Survey and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-181
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2017


  • astro-ph.IM
  • astro-ph.GA
  • gravitational lensing: strong
  • methods: statisical


Dive into the research topics of 'Finding strong lenses in CFHTLS using convolutional neural networks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this