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A Next Generation Microlensing Survey of the LMC

Christopher W. Stubbs (U. Wash.)
K. Cook (LLNL)
S. Hawley (U. Wash.)
D. Welch (McMaster U.)
C. Alcock (U. Penn.) K. Mighell (NOAO)
A. Becker (Lucent/Bell Labs)
C. Nelson (UC Berkeley)
A. Drake (LLNL)
A. Rest (U. Wash.)
G. Miknaitis (U. Wash.)
S. Keller (LLNL)

One of the foremost outstanding problems in the physical sciences is the nature and distribution of the ``dark matter'' that is the gravitationally dominant component of mass in all galaxies, including the Milky Way. One way to search for astrophysical dark matter objects (often called MAssive Compact Halo Objects, or MACHOs) is to search for the transient brightening of background stars due to the gravitational lensing by foreground MACHOs. A previous experiment has produced a peculiar result: While the detected rate of gravitational lensing events indicates that MACHOs comprise at most perhaps 20% of the dark matter halo, the number of events far exceeds that expected from known stellar populations. The nature of these excess lensing objects remains a mystery. We intend to determine the nature of this lensing population, which may outweigh all other known components of the Galaxy, by conducting a search with at least a tenfold improvement in the event detection rate. This will be one of the deepest time-domain surveys to date. The survey will have no proprietary data period, and we can draw heavily upon existing tools to provide useful access to the data.