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Extreme magnification of an individual star at redshift 1.5 by a galaxy-cluster lens


Galaxy-cluster gravitational lenses can magnify background galaxies by a total factor of up to ~50. Here we report an image of an individual star at redshift z = 1.49 (dubbed MACS J1149 Lensed Star 1) magnified by more than ×2,000. A separate image, detected briefly 0.26″ from Lensed Star 1, is probably a counterimage of the first star demagnified for multiple years by an object of 3 solar masses in the cluster. For reasonable assumptions about the lensing system, microlensing fluctuations in the stars’ light curves can yield evidence about the mass function of intracluster stars and compact objects, including binary fractions and specific stellar evolution and supernova models. Dark-matter subhaloes or massive compact objects may help to account for the two images’ long-term brightness ratio.

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Fig. 1: Locations of lensing events coinciding with background spiral galaxy near the MACS J1149 galaxy cluster’s critical curve.
Fig. 2: Proximity of LS1/Lev16A to the MACS J1149 galaxy cluster’s critical curve for multiple galaxy-cluster lens models.
Fig. 3: The SEDs of LS1 measured in 2013–2015 and of the rescaled excess flux density at LS1’s position close to its May 2016 peak.
Fig. 4: Light curve of the magnified star LS1, and best-matching simulated light curves during each interval.
Fig. 5: Highly magnified stellar images located near the MACS J1149 galaxy cluster’s critical curve.


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We thank the directors of the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Gemini Observatory, the GTC and the European Southern Observatory for granting us discretionary time. We thank B. Katz, D. Kushnir, B. Periello, I. Momcheva, T. Royale, L. Strolger, D. Coe, J. Lotz, M. L. Graham, R. Humphreys, R. Kurucz, A. Dolphin, M. Kriek, S. Rajendran, T. Davis, I. Hubeny, C. Leitherer, F. Nieva, D. Kasen, J. Mauerhan, D. Kelson, J. M. Silverman, A. Oscoz Abaz and Z. Levay for help with the observations and other assistance. The Keck Observatory was made possible with the support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. NASA/STScI grants 14041, 14199, 14208, 14528, 14872 and 14922 provided financial support. P.L.K., A.V.F. and W.Z. are grateful for assistance from the Christopher R. Redlich Fund, the TABASGO Foundation and the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science (U. C. Berkeley). The work of A.V.F. was completed in part at the Aspen Center for Physics, which is supported by NSF grant PHY-1607611. J.M.D. acknowledges support of projects AYA2015-64508-P (MINECO/FEDER, UE) and AYA2012-39475-C02-01 and the consolider project CSD2010-00064 funded by the Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad. P.G.P.-G. acknowledges support from Spanish government MINECO grants AYA2015-70815-ERC and AYA2015-63650-P. M.O. is supported by JSPS KAKENHI grants 26800093 and 15H05892. M.J. acknowledges support by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (grant ST/L00075X/1). R.J.F. is supported by NSF grant AST-1518052 and Sloan and Packard Foundation fellowships. M.N. acknowledges support from PRIN-INAF-2014 O.G. was supported by NSF Fellowship under award AST-1602595. J.H. acknowledges support from a VILLUM FONDEN Investigator Grant (16599). HST imaging was obtained at

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P.L.K. planned and analysed observations, wrote the manuscript and developed simulations. P.L.K., S.R., P.G.P.-G., T.Ma., M.J., J.S., A.V.F., J.H., D.A.H., S.B.C., B.L.F., M.B., W.Z., G.B., A.M.B., A.C., L.C., C.G., J.-P.K., T.Mo., C.M., M.N., I.P.-F., A.G.R., P.R., K.B.S. and B.J.W. obtained follow-up HST and ground-based imaging. J.M.D. developed microlensing simulations. S.R., T.B., A.Z., T.T., P.G.P.-G., M.J., M.O., A.V.F., N.S., J.H., B.L.F. and S.E.d.M. helped to prepare the manuscript. N.K. interpreted the microlensing events and derived analytic rate formula. T.B., A.Z., T.T., M.J., M.O., X.W., S.W.J., R.J.F., S.E.d.M., O.G. and B.J.W. aided the interpretation. P.G.P.-G. modelled the arc’s SED. T.Mo. modelled the ICL. M.O., J.R., R.K. and K.S. modelled the galaxy cluster. L.P. and C.N. considered the possibility that Icarus could exhibit diffraction effects. T.W.R. analysed the microlensing simulations. N.S. aided interpretation of the star’s SED. X.W. estimated the gas-phase metallicity at Icarus’s location. M.N. extracted photometry of Icarus using a complementary pipeline.

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Correspondence to Patrick L. Kelly.

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Kelly, P.L., Diego, J.M., Rodney, S. et al. Extreme magnification of an individual star at redshift 1.5 by a galaxy-cluster lens. Nat Astron 2, 334–342 (2018).

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