The MACHO project: Microlensing results from 5.7 years of Large Magellanic Cloud observations

C. Alcock, R. A. Allsman, D. R. Alves, T. S. Axelrod, A. C. Becker, D. P. Bennett, K. H. Cook, N. Dalal, A. J. Drake, K. C. Freeman, M. Geha, K. Griest, M. J. Lehner, S. L. Marshall, D. Minniti, C. A. Nelson, B. A. Peterson, P. Popowski, M. R. Pratt, P. J. QuinnC. W. Stubbs, W. Sutherland, A. B. Tomaney, T. Vandehei, D. Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on our search for microlensing toward the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Analysis of 5.7 yr of photometry on 11.9 million stars in the LMC reveals 13-17 microlensing events. A detailed treatment of our detection efficiency shows that this is significantly more than the ∼2-4 events expected from lensing by known stellar populations. The timescales (t̂) of the events range from 34 to 230 days. We estimate the microlensing optical depth toward the LMC from events with 2 < t̂ < 400 days to be τ4002 = 1.2+0.4-0:3 × 10-7 with an additional 20% to 30% of systematic error. The spatial distribution of events is mildly inconsistent with LMC/LMC disk self-lensing, but is consistent with an extended lens distribution such as a Milky Way or LMC halo. Interpreted in the context of a Galactic dark matter halo, consisting partially of compact objects, a maximum-likelihood analysis gives a MACHO halo fraction of 20% for a typical halo model with a 95% confidence interval of 8%-50%. A 100% MACHO halo is ruled out at the 95% confidence level for all except our most extreme halo model Interpreted as a Galactic halo population, the most likely MACHO mass is between 0.15 and 0.9 M⊙, depending on the halo model, and the total mass in MACHOs out to 50 kpc is found to be 9+4-3 × 1010 M⊙, independent of the halo model. These results are marginally consistent with our previous results, but are lower by about a factor of 2. This is mostly due to Poisson noise, because with 3.4 times more exposure and increased sensitivity to long-timescale events, we did not find the expected factor of ∼4 more events. In addition to a larger data set, this work also includes an improved efficiency determination, improved likelihood analysis, and more thorough testing of systematic errors, especially with respect to the treatment of potential backgrounds to microlensing. We noie that an important source of background are supernovae (SNe) in galaxies behind the LMC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-307
Number of pages27
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Oct 10 2000


  • Dark matter
  • Galaxy: halo
  • Galaxy: structure
  • Gravitational lensing
  • Stars: low-mass, brown dwarfs
  • White dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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