Near-field microlensing and its effects on stellar transit observations by Kepler

Kailash C. Sahu, Ronald L. Gilliland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In this paper, we explore the astrophysical implications of near-field microlensing and its effects on stellar transit observations, with a special emphasis on the Kepler mission. Kepler is a NASA-approved mission whose goal is to detect a large number of extrasolar, Earth-like planets by obtaining nearly continuous photometry of more than 100,000 F, G, and K dwarfs for 4 years. The expected photometric precision of Kepler is 90 μmag (achieved in 15 minute samples), at which the effect of microlensing by a transiting companion can be significant. For example, for a solar-type primary transited by a white dwarf secondary, the maximum depth of the transit is 0.01%, which is almost entirely compensated for by the microlensing amplification when the white dwarf is at ∼0.05 AU. The combined effect of microlensing and transit increases to a net amplification of 150 μmag at an orbital separation of 0.1 AU and 2.4 mmag at an orbital separation of 1 AU. Thus, the effect of microlensing can be used to break the degeneracy between a planetary-mass object for which the microlensing effect is negligible and a more massive object of the same size. For brown dwarfs at orbital separations of a few AU, the effect of microlensing is several percent of the transit depth, and hence the microlensing effect must be taken into account in deriving the physical parameters of the brown dwarf. The microlensing signal caused by a neutron star or a black hole in a binary can be several millimagnitudes, far exceeding the transit depth and potentially detectable even from ground-based observations. Kepler will be sensitive to white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes in binaries through their microlensing signatures. These observations can be used to derive the frequency of such compact objects in binaries and to determine their masses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1052
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Feb 20 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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