Gravitational Lensing in the Solar Neighbourhood and Towards the Milky Way Bulge

Change log
McGill, Peter 

This thesis is concerned with looking for and characterizing microlensing events in two places that are relatively unexplored. Leveraging astrometry from the Gaia satellite, I search for predicted close stellar alignments by lenses in the solar neighbourhood that will give rise to a microlensing event. Using Near-Infrared (NIR) photometry from the Vista Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) survey, I extract microlensing events towards highly-extinct regions of the Galactic bulge. In both cases, I develop a Bayesian methodology to characterize the microlensing signals. In Chapter 1, I review the history of finding microlensing events both by predicting stellar alignments and by monitoring millions of stars. I describe two uses for these types of events; lens mass determination and probing structure of the Galactic bulge. In Chapter 2, I detail the microlensing signals and the methods which underpin the results presented in the rest of the thesis. In Chapter 3, I find a predicted microlensing event where the lens is a nearby white dwarf. Analysis of this event permitted a direct mass determination of the white dwarf which in turn allowed a test of the white dwarf mass-radius relationship. In Chapter 4, I present a search for predicted photometric microlensing events. For these events, I investigate combining prior astrometric information from Gaia with photometric follow-up data to extract the lens mass. In Chapter 5, I extend predicted microlensing searches using Gaia in combination with astrometry from the VVV. In Chapter 6, I critically examine the reliability of predicted microlensing events found with Gaia. I find that the majority of high-quality events expected to occur over Gaia’s life time are in fact spurious. Finally, in Chapter 7, I use machine learning to extract 1959 microlensing events from the VVV and I develop a Bayesian methodology to characterize their sparsely sampled signals.

Evans, Neil Wyn
Belokurov, Vasily
gravitational lensing, machine learning, Bayesian statistics, astronomy, microlensing, astrometry, Milky Way
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
STFC (1950369)
PhD studentship from the Sciences and Technologies Research Council (STFC)