Statistical Searches for Microlensing Events in Large, Non-Uniformly Sampled Time-Domain Surveys: A Test Using Palomar Transient Factory Data

Price-Whelan, Adrian Michael; Agüeros, Marcel Andre; Fournier, Amanda P.; Street, Rachel; Ofek, Eran O.; Covey, Kevin R.; Levitan, David; Laher, Russ R.; Sesar, Branimir; Surace, Jason

Many photometric time-domain surveys are driven by specific goals, such as searches for supernovae or transiting exoplanets, which set the cadence with which fields are re-imaged. In the case of the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF), several sub-surveys are conducted in parallel, leading to non-uniform sampling over its ~20,000 deg2 footprint. While the median 7.26 deg2 PTF field has been imaged ~40 times in the R band, ~2300 deg2 have been observed >100 times. We use PTF data to study the trade off between searching for microlensing events in a survey whose footprint is much larger than that of typical microlensing searches, but with far-from-optimal time sampling. To examine the probability that microlensing events can be recovered in these data, we test statistics used on uniformly sampled data to identify variables and transients. We find that the von Neumann ratio performs best for identifying simulated microlensing events in our data. We develop a selection method using this statistic and apply it to data from fields with >10 R-band observations, 1.1 × 109 light curves, uncovering three candidate microlensing events. We lack simultaneous, multi-color photometry to confirm these as microlensing events. However, their number is consistent with predictions for the event rate in the PTF footprint over the survey's three years of operations, as estimated from near-field microlensing models. This work can help constrain all-sky event rate predictions and tests microlensing signal recovery in large data sets, which will be useful to future time-domain surveys, such as that planned with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.


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The Astrophysical Journal

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April 3, 2015


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