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Astron. Astrophys. 335, 69-84 (1998)

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Close projected QSO-Galaxy associations: are they real? *

J.-F. Claeskens ** and J. Surdej ***

Institut d'Astrophysique et de Géophysique, Université de Liège, Avenue de Cointe 5, B-4000 Liège, Belgium

Received 29 December 1997 / Accepted 16 March 1998


The present status of close projected associations between high redshift quasars and foreground galaxies is reviewed in the framework of gravitational lensing, adopting both an observational and a theoretical approach. The Non Singular Isothermal Spherical lens model (Hinshaw & Krauss 1987) is used. We confirm that a stronger overdensity q of bright galaxies is expected at small projected angular separations ([FORMULA]) from high redshift and bright (thus highly luminous) quasars (HLQs). The effects of a non singular galactic core radius and/or microlensing only slightly enhance this expected overdensity. The predictions reproduce pretty well the scarce observations which are presently available, with the exception of two rather high overdensities previously claimed in the literature (e.g. [FORMULA] for [FORMULA], Webster & Hewett 1990). Uncontrolled morphological selections may affect these controversial results so that additional unbiased observations are badly needed before rejecting gravitational lensing as the mechanism to produce the observed close angular QSO-galaxy associations.

We describe three new selected and bias-free samples consisting of a total of 219 different HLQs. Although an apparent overdensity is detected in two of them, these galaxy excesses are found to be statistically not significant.

Firm confirmation of the reality of close projected QSO-Galaxy associations is hampered by small number statistics: the expected and observed absolute numbers of such QSO-galaxy associations are still presently found to be very small. Therefore, the corresponding error bars are quite large. We conclude that the best observational strategy to significantly detect (at 3 [FORMULA]) an overdensity of galaxies near HLQs is to observe about 1500 HLQs ([FORMULA]) down to a limiting magnitude [FORMULA]. Future automated surveys may provide us with such a large and unbiased database.

In conclusions, we find that the lensing-induced correlation between galaxies and HLQs at small angular separations consists of a very interesting but weak effect, much less sensitive to cosmological or astrophysical parameters than the number of multiply imaged sources expected within a sample of HLQs.

Key words: quasars: general – galaxies: statistics – cosmology: gravitational lensing

* Based on data collected at the European Southern Observatory, La Silla, Chile
** Aspirant du F.N.R.S. (Belgium)
*** Directeur de Recherches du F.N.R.S. (Belgium)

Send offprint requests to: Claeskens@astro.ulg.ac.be

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: June 12, 1998