Journal Article

Planetary microlensing signals from the orbital motion of the source star around the common barycentre

S. Rahvar and M. Dominik

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 392, issue 3, pages 1193-1204
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.14120.x
Planetary microlensing signals from the orbital motion of the source star around the common barycentre

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With several detections, the technique of gravitational microlensing has proven useful for studying planets that orbit stars at Galactic distances, and it can even be applied to detect planets in neighbouring galaxies. So far, planet detections by microlensing have been considered to result from a change in the bending of light and the resulting magnification caused by a planet around the foreground lens star. However, in complete analogy to the annual parallax effect caused by the revolution of the Earth around the Sun, the motion of the source star around the common barycentre with an orbiting planet can also lead to observable deviations in microlensing light curves that can provide evidence for the unseen companion. We discuss this effect in some detail and study the prospects of microlensing observations for revealing planets through this alternative detection channel. Given that small distances between lens and source star are favoured, and that the effect becomes nearly independent of the source distance, planets would remain detectable even if their host star is located outside the Milky Way with a sufficiently good photometry (exceeding present-day technology) being possible. From synthetic light curves arising from a Monte Carlo simulation, we find that the chances for such detections are not overwhelming and appear practically limited to the most massive planets (at least with current observational set-ups), but they are large enough for leaving the possibility that one or the other signal has already been observed. However, it may remain undetermined whether the planet actually orbits the source star or rather the lens star, which leaves us with an ambiguity not only with respect to its location, but also to its properties.

Keywords: gravitational lensing; planetary systems

Journal Article.  8719 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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