AAS 199th meeting, Washington, DC, January 2002
Session 115. Extra-Solar Planet Astronomy from the Present to TPF
Special Session Oral, Wednesday, January 9, 2002, 2:00-3:30pm, International Ballroom East

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[115.05] Detection of Terrestrial Extra-Solar Planets via Gravitational Microlensing

D. P. Bennett (Notre Dame)

Gravitational microlensing is the only known extra-solar planet search technique in which the planetary signal strength is nearly independent of the planetary mass, and its sensitivity spans a very large range of planetary semi-major axes: from ~0.7AU to infinity. Microlensing is, therefore, uniquely sensitive to planetary systems like are own: microlensing can detect analogs to all of the Solar System's planets except for Mercury and Pluto. The basic physical reasons for these properties are explained. Both ground-based and space-based microlensing planet search programs are discussed, and it is shown that only a space-based program can perform a sensitive survey for terrestrial planets. An important feature of the space based survey is that the lens stars can be directly detected for 1/3 of the lensing events including virtually all of the planetary host stars that have spectral types of F, G, or K. This means that a gravitational microlensing survey for planets can measure the planetary abundance as a function of host star spectral type, planetary mass, and semi-major axis and therefore determine the abundance of planetary systems like our own. A by-product of such a survey will be the discovery of ~50,000 giant planets via transits, so the abundance of giant planets will be determined at all separations.

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