A MICROLENSING SEARCH FOR COLD MOLECULAR CLOUDS IN VIRGO
H. TADROS (1), S. J. WARREN (2), P. C. HEWETT (3),
(1) Department of Physics, Astrophysics, Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3RH, UK
(2) Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College of Science,
Technology and Medicine, Prince Consort Rd, London, SW7 2BW, UK
(3)Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 OHA, UK


Abstract:
We report preliminary results from a first season of photometric monitoring of 600 quasars behind the Virgo galaxy cluster with the aim of detecting microlensing by the cluster dark matter. Our project is sensitive to dark objects of surface mass densities down to $\sim 20 \,{\rm g \; cm}^{-2}$. We are thus capable of detecting diffuse objects, such as cold molecular clouds, unlike all Galactic microlensing surveys whose surface mass density limits are $> 10^{4} \; {\rm g \; cm}^{-2}$. The average optical depth to microlensing of quasars through the central 30 sq. deg. of Virgo is $\sim 1 \times 10^{-3}$. We report a null detection which implies that less than half the dark matter in Virgo is in objects of mass $\sim 10^{-5}$ solar masses, of surface mass density $> 20 \,{\rm g \; cm}^{-2}$, at $90\%$ confidence.