Published in Physics Reports, Volume 558, pp. 1-59, 2019.


M. A. Troxel a,b and Mustapha Ishak a

a Department of Physics, The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75080, USA
b Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

Abstract: The wealth of incoming and future cosmological observations will allow us to map out the structure and evolution of the observable universe to an unprecedented level of precision. Among these observations is the weak gravitational lensing of galaxies, e.g., cosmic shear that measures the minute distortions of background galaxy images by intervening cosmic structure. Weak lensing and cosmic shear promise to be a powerful probe of astrophysics and cosmology, constraining models of dark energy, measuring the evolution of structure in the universe, and testing theories of gravity on cosmic scales. However, the intrinsic alignment of galaxies – their shape and orientation before being lensed – may pose a great challenge to the use of weak gravitational lensing as an accurate cosmological probe, and has been identified as one of the primary physical systematic biases in cosmic shear studies. Correlations between this intrinsic alignment and the lensing signal can persist even for large physical separations, and isolating the effect of intrinsic alignment from weak lensing is not trivial. A great deal of work in the last two decades has been devoted to understanding and characterizing this intrinsic alignment, which is also a direct and complementary probe of structure formation and evolution in its own right. In this review, we report in a systematic way the state of our understanding of the intrinsic alignment of galaxies, with a particular emphasis on its large-scale impact on weak lensing measurements and methods for its isolation or mitigation. We begin with an introduction to the use of cosmic shear as a probe for cosmology and describe the various physical contributions by intrinsic alignment to the shear or convergence 2- and 3-point correlations. We then review developments in the modeling of the intrinsic alignment signal, including a trend toward attempting to incorporate more accurate nonlinear and single halo effects. The impact on cosmological constraints by the intrinsic alignment of galaxies is also outlined based on these models. We then summarize direct measurements of the large-scale intrinsic alignment signal in various surveys and discuss their constraints on models of intrinsic alignment, as well as progress in utilizing numerical simulations of structure formation to further our understanding of intrinsic alignment. Finally, we outline the development of a variety of mitigation techniques for reducing the impact of the intrinsic alignment contamination on weak lensing signals both within a galaxy data set and between complementary probes of gravitational lensing. The methodology and projected impact of these techniques are discussed for both 2- and 3-point correlations. We conclude by presenting a summary and outlook on the state of intrinsic alignment study and its impact on ongoing and planned weak lensing surveys.

Keywords : weak gravitational lensing, intrinsic alignment, cosmology, large-scale structure

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