Analyzing Exoplanet Survey Methods Using Massive Datasets: Transit and Microlensing Light Curves
Jacklin, Savannah Renee
The light curve has taken on a new importance in the field of astrophysics in the 21st century. Next generation telescopes such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will generate light curves for over a billion stars in an effort to understand our changing night sky. In order to prepare for these telescopes, it is necessary to understand what they can discover and to begin to build the analysis that will process the massive stream of data returned every night. Here, we aim to use both simulations of Vera Rubin Observatory data and precursor data from the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) as an avenue to predict detections of transient astronomical events, specifically in the context of transiting exoplanets and microlensing brightening events caused by exoplanets. We use the Vera Rubin Observatory operations simulation and its proposed cadence to inject transiting exoplanets on the light curve level to determine if we can recover their periodic signals. If the periodicity signals are detected at a high enough power, we deem the injected exoplanets detected. We find that the Vera Rubin Observatory will be capable of detecting hot Jupiters, hot Neptunes and hot super Earths orbiting G-, K-, and M-dwarf at 0.2, 2, and 7 kiloparsec distance stars respectively. For the largest planets, detection will be possible with 4-6 years of operation, while super Earths will require a full ten years of observations. Meanwhile, our UKIRT Microlensing Survey has four main objectives: 1. determine the number of real microlensing events in our UKIRT observations, 2. create an image-level stellar and injection and recovery pipeline, 3. determine the UKIRT microlensing completeness and luminosity functions, and 4. derive the near-infrared (NIR) microlensing detection efficiency and event rate. We demonstrate that microlensing signals are detectable with UKIRT light curves at least ~80% of the time for stars brighter than 16th magnitude. Information on event rates in the NIR is crucial for informing mission design specifications, and allows astronomers to prepare for the upcoming WFIRST. The light curve extraction and analysis pipeline that we have developed will be a valuable tool for this work in the years ahead.