Dr. Rosanne DiStefano

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"Gravitational lensing, distant dark matter, and nearby planets"

Determining the nature of dark matter is one of the major challenges facing astronomers and physicists. During the past fifteen years, monitoring programs have begun to test the hypothesis that dark matter is in the form of MACHOs, MAssive Compact Halo Objects. We will review the results so far and their significant uncertainties. One of the main sources of uncertainty is associated with the contributions of ordinary stellar populations. Among these populations are stellar remnants and low-mass stars located within a kiloparsec of Earth. The second part of the talk will focus on how we can use lensing to study these populations. Of special interest are nearby low-mass stars that have planets in the zone of habitability. We will consider the expected lensing signatures and develop the hypothesis that lensing can join other methods, such as transits, to discover and study nearby, potentially habitable planets.

Back to Spring 2008 Astrophysics Seminars

Received February 4, 2008