In Barbara Ryden's Intro to Cosmology, she states that a method used by teams to detect lensing by Massive Compact Halo Objects (MACHOS) is to monitor millions of stars and watch for flux changes.

Why does Gravitational lensing change flux of light coming from stars?

  • $\begingroup$ A lense can magnify a source as it passes between the source and the observer. $\endgroup$
    – Ihle
    Aug 8, 2016 at 11:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Some of the light that normally would have missed the Earth is redirected by the gravitational lensing effect so it does hit the Earth. Thus the detected flux (not the emitted flux) is increased. $\endgroup$
    – Brionius
    Aug 8, 2016 at 12:02

1 Answer 1


Suppose you're using one of the the Keck telescopes to look at a distant object. This collects all the light falling on its mirror, which has a radius of 10m. All this light is then focussed into the image plane.

Now suppose a galaxy the size of the Milky Way is lensing the distant object. This collects all the light falling on the galaxy, which has a radius of about 50,000 light years and focusses it.

Which is going to be brighter?

I'm exaggerating for effect because the difference in brightness is far, far smaller than I've suggested above. Gravitational lenses do not have a simple focal plane like the lens in a telescope, and only a tiny fraction of the light they lens reaches our telescope on Earth. The increases in brightness due to gravitational lensing are generally pretty modest. Nevertheless it should be obvious that a gravitational lens can collect more light simply because it's so big.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.