[en] gravitational lensing (12.07.1) ; cosmology : observations (12.03.3) ; quasars : general (11.17.3) ; galaxies : general (11.07.1)
[en] The first cosmic mirage was discovered approximately 20 years ago as the double optical counterpart of a radio source. This phenomenon had been predicted some 70 years earlier as a consequence of General Relativity. We present here a summary of what we have learnt since. The applications are so numerous that we had to concentrate on a few selected aspects of this new field of research. This review is focused on strong gravitational lensing, i.e. the formation of multiple images, in QSO samples. It is intended to give the reader an up-to-date status of the observations and to present an overview of its most interesting potential applications in cosmology and astrophysics, as well as numerous important results achieved so far. The first section follows an intuitive approach to the basics of gravitational lensing and is developed in view of our interest in multiply imaged quasars. The astrophysical and cosmological applications of gravitational lensing are outlined in Sect. 2 and the most important results are presented in Sect. 5. Sections 3 and 4 are devoted to the observations. Finally, conclusions are summarized in the last section. We have tried to avoid duplication with existing (and excellent) introductions to the field of oravitational lensing. For this reason, we did not concentrate on the individual properties of specific lens models, as these are already well presented in Narayan and Bartelmann (1996) and on a more intuitive ground in Refsdal and Surdej (1994). Wambsganss (1998) proposes a broad view on gravitational lensing, in astronomy; the reviews by Fort and Mellier (1994) and Hattori et al. (1999) deal with lensing by galaxy clusters, microlensing in the Galaxy and the local group is reviewed by Paczynski (1996) and a general panorama on weak lensing is given by Bartelmann and Schneider (1999) and Mellier (1999). The monograph on the theory of gravitational lensing by Schneider, Ehlers and Falco (1992) also remains a reference in the field.