Vol 21, No 6

Masses for free-floating planets and dwarf planets

Andrew Gould, Wei-Cheng Zang, Shu-De Mao, Su-Bo Dong


Abstract The mass and distance functions of free-floating planets (FFPs) would give major insights into the formation and evolution of planetary systems, including any systematic differences between those in the disk and bulge. We show that the only way to measure the mass and distance of individual FFPs over a broad range of distances is to observe them simultaneously from two observatories separated by D ∼ O(0.01 au) (to measure their microlens parallax πE) and to focus on the finite-source point-lens (FSPL) events (which yield the Einstein radius θE). By combining the existing KMTNet 3-telescope observatory with a 0.3 m 4 deg2 telescope at L2, of order 130 such measurements could be made over four years, down to about M ∼ 6 M⊕ for bulge FFPs and M ∼ 0.7 M⊕ for disk FFPs. The same experiment would return masses and distances for many bound planetary systems. A more ambitious experiment, with two 0.5 m satellites (one at L2 and the other nearer Earth) and similar camera layout but in the infrared, could measure masses and distances of sub-Moon mass objects, and thereby probe (and distinguish between) genuine sub-Moon FFPs and sub-Moon “dwarf planets” in exo-Kuiper Belts and exo-Oort Clouds.


Keywords gravitational lensing: micro

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