March 2014 • 2014ApJ...783...86C
Abstract • We present the final analysis of the observational campaign carried out by the PLAN (Pixel Lensing Andromeda) collaboration to detect a dark matter signal in form of MACHOs through the microlensing effect. The campaign consists of about 1 month/year observations carried out over 4 years (2007-2010) at the 1.5 m Cassini telescope in Loiano (Astronomical Observatory of BOLOGNA, OAB) plus 10 days of data taken in 2010 at the 2 m Himalayan Chandra Telescope monitoring the central part of M31 (two fields of about 13' × 12.'6). We establish a fully automated pipeline for the search and the characterization of microlensing flux variations. As a result, we detect three microlensing candidates. We evaluate the expected signal through a full Monte Carlo simulation of the experiment completed by an analysis of the detection efficiency of our pipeline. We consider both "self lensing" and "MACHO lensing" lens populations, given by M31 stars and dark matter halo MACHOs, in M31 and the Milky Way, respectively. The total number of events is consistent with the expected self-lensing rate. Specifically, we evaluate an expected signal of about two self-lensing events. As for MACHO lensing, for full 0.5(10-2) M ⊙ MACHO halos, our prediction is for about four (seven) events. The comparatively small number of expected MACHO versus self-lensing events, together with the small number statistics at our disposal, do not enable us to put strong constraints on that population. Rather, the hypothesis, suggested by a previous analysis, on the MACHO nature of OAB-07-N2, one of the microlensing candidates, translates into a sizeable lower limit for the halo mass fraction in form of the would-be MACHO population, f, of about 15% for 0.5 M ⊙ MACHOs.