Gravitational microlensing events due to stellar-mass black holes

D.P. Bennett, A.C. Becker, J.L. Quinn, A.B. Tomaney, C. Alcock, R.A. Allsman, D.R. Alves, T.S. Axelrod, J.J. Calitz, K.H. Cook, A.J. Drake, P.C. Fragile, K.C. Freeman, M. Geha, K. Griest, B.R. Johnson, S.C. Keller, C. Laws, M.J. Lehner, S.L. MarshallD. Minniti, C.A. Nelson, B.A. Peterson, P. Popowski, M.R. Pratt, Peter Quinn, S.H. Rhie, C.W. Stubbs, W. Sutherland, T. Vandehei, D. Welch

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    104 Citations (Scopus)


    We present an analysis of the longest timescale microlensing events discovered by the MACHO Collaboration during a 7 year survey of the Galactic bulge. We find six events that exhibit very strong microlensing parallax signals due, in part, to accurate photometric data from the GMAN and MPS collaborations. The microlensing parallax fit parameters are used in a likelihood analysis, which is able to estimate the distances and masses of the lens objects based on a standard model of the Galactic velocity distribution. This analysis indicates that the most likely masses of five of the six lenses are greater than 1 M-circle dot, which suggests that a substantial fraction of the Galactic lenses may be massive stellar remnants. This could explain the observed excess of long-timescale microlensing events. The lenses for events MACHO-96-BLG-5 and MACHO-98-BLG-6 are the most massive, with mass estimates of M/M-circle dot = 6(-3)(+10) and M/M-circle dot = 6(-3)(+7), respectively. The observed upper limits on the absolute brightness of main-sequence stars for these lenses are less than 1 L-circle dot, so both lenses are black hole candidates. The black hole interpretation is also favored by a likelihood analysis with a Bayesian prior using a conventional model for the lens mass function. We consider the possibility that the source stars for some of these six events may lie in the foreground Galactic disk or in the Sagittarius (Sgr) dwarf galaxy behind the bulge, but we find that bulge sources are likely to dominate our microlensing parallax event sample. Future Hubble Space Telescope observations of these events can either confirm the black hole lens hypothesis or detect the lens stars and provide a direct measurement of their masses. Future observations of similar events by the Space Interferometry Mission or the Keck or VLT interferometers, as explained by Delplancke, Gorski, & Richichi, will allow direct measurements of the lens masses for stellar remnant lenses as well.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)639-659
    JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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