An anomaly detector with immediate feedback to hunt for planets of Earth mass and below by microlensing

Martin Dominik, N J Rattenbury, A Allan, S Mao, D M Bramich, M J Burgdorf, E Kerins, Y Tsapras, L Wyrzykowski

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44 Citations (Scopus)


The discovery of OGLE 2005-BLG-390Lb, the first cool rocky/icy exoplanet, impressively demonstrated the sensitivity of the microlensing technique to extrasolar planets below 10 M+. A planet of 1 M+ instead of the expected 5 M+ for OGLE 2005-BLG-390Lb (with an uncertainty factor of 2) in the same spot would have provided a detectable deviation with an amplitude of similar to 3 per cent and a duration of similar to 12 h. While a standard sampling interval of 1.5-2.5 h for microlensing follow-up observations appears to be insufficient for characterizing such light curve anomalies and thereby claiming the discovery of the planets that caused these, an early detection of a deviation could trigger higher-cadence sampling which would have allowed the discovery of an Earth-mass planet in this case. Here, we describe the implementation of an automated anomaly detector, embedded into the eSTAR system, that profits from immediate feedback provided by the robotic telescopes that form the RoboNet-1.0 network. It went into operation for the 2007 microlensing observing season. As part of our discussion about an optimal strategy for planet detection, we shed some new light on whether concentrating on highly magnified events is promising and planets in the 'resonant' angular separation equal to the angular Einstein radius are revealed most easily. Given that sub-Neptune mass planets can be considered being common around the host stars probed by microlensing (preferentially M and K dwarfs), the higher number of events that can be monitored with a network of 2-m telescopes and the increased detection efficiency for planets below 5 M+ arising from an optimized strategy gives a common effort of current microlensing campaigns a fair chance to detect an Earth-mass planet (from the ground) ahead of the COROT or Kepler missions. The detection limit of gravitational microlensing extends even below 0.1 M+, but such planets are not very likely to be detected from current campaigns. However, these will be within the reach of high-cadence monitoring with a network of wide-field telescopes or a space-based telescope.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-804
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2007


  • gravitational lensing
  • methods : observational
  • planetary systems


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