Two accurate time-delay distances from strong lensing: Implications for cosmology
Strong gravitational lenses with measured time delays between the multiple images and models of the lens mass distribution allow a one-step determination of the time-delay distance, and thus a measure of cosmological parameters. We present a blind analysis of the gravitational lens RXJ1131-1231 incorporating (1) the newly measured time delays from COSMOGRAIL, (2) archival HST imaging of the lens system, (3) a new velocity-dispersion measurement of the lens galaxy of 323+/-20km/s based on Keck spectroscopy, and (4) a characterization of the line-of-sight structures via observations of the lens' environment and ray tracing through the Millennium Simulation. Our blind analysis is designed to prevent experimenter bias. The joint analysis of the data sets allows a time-delay distance measurement to 6% precision that takes into account all known systematic uncertainties. In combination with the WMAP7 data set in flat wCDM cosmology, our unblinded cosmological constraints for RXJ1131-1231 are: H_0=80.0+5.8/-5.7km/s/Mpc, OmegaDE=0.79+/-0.03 and w=-1.25+0.17/-0.21. We find the results to be statistically consistent with those from the analysis of the gravitational lens B1608+656. The joint constraints from the two lenses and WMAP7 are H_0=75.2+4.4/-4.2km/s/Mpc, OmegaDE=0.76+0.02/-0.03 and w=-1.14+0.17/-0.20 in flat wCDM, and H_0=73.1+2.4/-3.6km/s/Mpc, OmegaL=0.75+0.01/-0.02 and OmegaK=0.003+0.005/-0.006 in open LCDM. Time-delay lenses constrain especially tightly the Hubble constant (5.7% and 4.0% respectively in wCDM and open LCDM) and curvature of the universe. They complement well other cosmological probes, and provide an independent check of unknown systematics. Our measurement of the Hubble constant is completely independent of those based on the local distance ladder method, providing an important consistency check of the standard cosmological model and of general relativity.