Microlensing masses via photon bunching


In microlensing of a Galactic star by a brown dwarf or other compact object, the amplified image really consists of two unresolved images with slightly different light-travel times. The difference (of order a microsecond) is GM/c^3 times a dimensionless factor depending on the total magnification. Since magnification is well-measured in microlensing events, a single time-delay measurement would provide the mass of the lens, without degeneracies. The challenge is to find an observable that varies on sub-microsecond time scales. This paper notes that the narrow-band intensity of the unresolved image pair will show photon bunching (the Hanbury Brown and Twiss effect), and argues that the lensed intensity will have an auto-correlation peak at the lensing time delay. The ultrafast photon-counting technology needed for this type of measurement exists, but the photon numbers required to give sufficient signal-to-noise appear infeasible at present. Preliminary estimates suggest time-delayed photon bunching may be measurable for lensed early-type main-sequence stars at 10 kpc, with the help of 30 m-class telescopes.Comment: To appear in MNRA

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    Last time updated on 05/11/2019