Press Release

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4846

By SpaceRef Editor
May 4, 2009
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HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science

DAILY REPORT #4846

PERIOD COVERED: 5am May 01 – 5am May 04, 2009 (DOY
121/0900z-124/0900z)

OBSERVATIONS SCHEDULED

WFPC2 11988
Searching for Intermediate Mass Black Holes in Globular Clusters via
Proper Motions

The unambiguous detection of an intermediate mas black hole (IMBH) in
a globular star cluster would be a major achievement for the Hubble
Space Telescope. It is critical to know whether or not IMBHs exist in
the centers of clusters in order to understand the dynamical evolution
of dense stellar systems. Also, n IMBH detection would prove the
existence of BHs in an entirely new mass range. Observationally, the
search has been hampered by the low number of stars with known
velocities in the central few arcseconds. This limits measurements of
the stellar velocity dispersion in the region where the gravitational
influence of any IMBH would be felt. Existing IMBH claims in the
literature have all been called into question, and have all been based
on line-of-sight velocities from spectroscopy. In cycle 13, we
obtained ACS/HRC observations for 5 nearby Galactic globular clusters
for a new proper motion study. Here, we request WFPC2/PC observations
of these clusters, all of which are observable in Feb-May 2009. This 4
year baseline will allow us to measure the proper motions of stars
into the very center of each cluster, and either detect or place firm
constraints on the presence of an IMBH. In addition, we will determine
whether or not the clusters rotate or show any anisotropy in their
motions. Our small (<75 orbit) program meets the criteria of
addressing high impact science (IMBH detection) using innovative
methods (proper motions).

WFPC2 11987
The Recent Star Formation History of SINGS Galaxies

The Spitzer Legacy project SINGS provided a unique view of the current
state of star formation and dust in a sample of galaxies of all Hubble
types. This multi-wavelength view allowed the team to create current
star formation diagnostics that are independent of the dust content
and increased our understanding of the dust in galaxies. Even so,
using the SINGS data alone we can only make rough estimates of the
recent star formation history of these galaxies. The lack of U-band
observations means that it is impossible to estimate the ages of young
clusters. In addition, the low resolution of the Spitzer and
ground-based observations means that what appear to be individual
Spitzer sources can actually be composed of many individual clusters
with varying ages. In this proposal we plan to address this missing
area in SINGS by obtaining high-resolution WFPC2 UBVI observations to
accurately find and determine the ages of the young stellar clusters
in a subset of the SINGS galaxies. These observations will greatly
enhance the legacy value of the SINGS observations while also directly
answering questions pertaining to star formation in galaxies.

ACS/SBC 11982
Spanning the Reionization History of IGM Helium: a Large and Efficient
HST Spectral Survey of Far-UV-Bright Quasars

The reionization of IGM helium is thought to have occurred at
redshifts of z=3 to 4. Detailed studies of HeII Lyman-alpha absorption
toward a handful of QSOs at 2.7 of such IGM probes, but the small sample size and redshift range limit
confidence in cosmological inferences. The requisite unobscured
sightlines to high-z are extremely rare, but we’ve cross-correlated
10, 000 z>2.8 SDSS DR7 (and other) quasars with GALEX GR4 UV sources
to obtain 550 new, high confidence, sightlines potentially useful for
HST HeII studies; and in cycle 15-16 trials we demonstrated the
efficacy of our SDSS/GALEX selection approach identifying 9 new HeII
quasars at unprecedented 67% efficiency. We propose the first
far-UV-bright HeII quasar survey that is both large in scale and also
efficient, via 2-orbit reconnaissance ACS/SBC prism spectra toward a
highly select subset of 40 new SDSS/GALEX quasars at 3.1 will provide a community resource list that includes 5 far-UV-bright
(restframe) HeII sightlines in each of 8 redshift bins spanning
3.14), enabling superb
post-SM4 follow-up spectra with COS or STIS. But simultaneously and
independent of any SM4 uncertainties, we will hereby directly obtain
10-orbit UV spectral stacks from the 5 HeII quasars in each of the 8
redshift bins to trace the reionization history of IGM helium over at
least 3.1 variance and individual object pathology. Our new high-yield HeII
sightline sample and spectral stacks, covering a large redshift range,
will allow confident conclusions about the spectrum and evolution of
the ionizing background, the evolution of HeII opacity, the density of
IGM baryons, and the epoch of helium reionization.

ACS/SBC 11980
Deep FUV Imaging of Cooling Flow Clusters

We propose to take deep ACS FUV images of a carefully selected sample
of 19 bright central galaxies in nearby galaxy clusters. This program
is the last critical element of a comprehensive investigation of the
impact of stellar and AGN feedback on the local galaxy cluster
environment. The HST images will complement new, high-resolution,
Halpha images obtained with the recently commissioned
Maryland-Magellan Tunable Filter (MMTF) on the Baade 6.5m telescope,
archival Chandra, VLA, and GALEX data, and on-going H2/NIR
observations. The MMTF data have revealed unsuspected filamentary
complexes in several systems. The GALEX data often show hints of
extended NUV and FUV emission on a similar scale, but their poor
spatial resolution prevents meaningful comparison with the MMTF data.
The HST data will provide this much needed gain in resolution. The
combined radio-H2-Halpha-FUV-X-ray dataset will allow us to derive
with unprecedented precision the role of the AGN, hot stars, shocks,
and relativistic particles on the excitation and thermodynamics of the
multi-phase intracluster and interstellar media in these systems. This
is an important question since the formation and evolution of most
cluster galaxies have likely been affected by these processes.

WFPC2 11975
UV Light from Old Stellar Populations: a Census of UV Sources in
Galactic Globular Clusters

In spite of the fact that HST has been the only operative
high-resolution eye in the UV-window over the last 18 years, no
homogeneous UV survey of Galactic globular clusters (GGCs) has been
performed to date. In order to fill this gap in the stellar population
studies, we propose a program that exploits the unique capability of
the WFPC2 and the SBC in the far-/mid- UV for securing deep UV imaging
of 46 GGCs. The proposed observations will allow to study with
unprecedented accuracy the hottest GGC stars, comprising the extreme
horizontal branch (HB) stars and their progeny (the so-called
AGB-manque’, and Post-early AGB stars), and “exotic stellar
populations” like the blue straggler stars and the interacting
binaries. The targets have been selected to properly sample the GGC
metallicity/structural parameter space, thus to unveil any possible
correlation between the properties of the hot stellar populations and
the cluster characteristics. In addition, most of the targets have
extended HB “blue tails”, that can be properly studied only by means
of deep UV observations, especially in the far-UV filters like the
F160BW, that is not foreseen on the WFC3. This data base is
complemented with GALEX observations in the cluster outermost regions,
thus allowing to investigate any possible trend of the UV-bright
stellar types over the entire radial extension of the clusters.
Although the hottest GGC stars are just a small class of “special”
objects, their study has a broad relevance in the context of structure
formation and chemical evolution in the early Universe, bringing
precious information on the basic star formation processes and the
origin of blue light from galaxies. Indeed, the proposed observations
will provide the community with an unprecedented data set suitable for
addressing a number of still open astrophysical questions, ranging
from the main drivers of the HB morphology and the mass loss
processes, to the origin of the UV upturn in elliptical galaxies, the
dating of distant systems from integrated light, and the complex
interplay between stellar evolution and dynamics in dense stellar
aggregates. In the spirit of constructing a community resource, we
entirely waive the proprietary period for these observations.

FGS 11944
Binaries at the Extremes of the H-R Diagram

We propose to use HST/Fine Guidance Sensor 1r to survey for binaries
among some of the most massive, least massive, and oldest stars in our
part of the Galaxy. FGS allows us to spatially resolve binary systems
that are too faint to observe using ground-based, speckle or optical
long baseline interferometry, and too close to resolve with AO. We
propose a SNAP-style program of single orbit FGS TRANS mode
observations of very massive stars in the cluster NGC 3603, luminous
blue variables, nearby low mass main sequence stars, cool subdwarf
stars, and white dwarfs. These observations will help us to (1)
identify systems suitable for follow up studies for mass
determination, (2) study the role of binaries in stellar birth and in
advanced evolutionary states, (3) explore the fundamental properties
of stars near the main sequence-brown dwarf boundary, (4) understand
the role of binaries for X-ray bright systems, (5) find binaries among
ancient and nearby subdwarf stars, and (6) help calibrate the white
dwarf mass – radius relation.

WFPC2 11794
Cycle 16 Visible Earth Flats

This proposal monitors flatfield stability. This proposal obtains
sequences of Earth streak flats to construct high quality flat fields
for the WFPC2 filter set. These flat fields will allow mapping of the
OTA illumination pattern and will be used in conjunction with previous
internal and external flats to generate new pipeline superflats. These
Earth flats will complement the Earth flat data obtained during cycles
4-15.

WFPC2 11793
WFPC2 Cycle 16 Internal Monitor

This calibration proposal is the Cycle 15 routine internal monitor for
WFPC2, to be run weekly to monitor the health of the cameras. A
variety of internal exposures are obtained in order to provide a
monitor of the integrity of the CCD camera electronics in both bays
(both gain 7 and gain 15 — to test stability of gains and bias
levels), a test for quantum efficiency in the CCDs, and a monitor for
possible buildup of contaminants on the CCD windows. These also
provide raw data for generating annual super-bias reference files for
the calibration pipeline.

FGS 11789
An Astrometric Calibration of Population II Distance Indicators

In 2002 HST produced a highly precise parallax for RR Lyrae. That
measurement resulted in an absolute magnitude, M(V)= 0.61+/-0.11, a
useful result, judged by the over ten refereed citations each year
since. It is, however, unsatisfactory to have the direct,
parallax-based, distance scale of Population II variables based on a
single star. We propose, therefore, to obtain the parallaxes of four
additional RR Lyrae stars and two Population II Cepheids, or W Vir
stars. The Population II Cepheids lie with the RR Lyrae stars on a
common K-band Period-Luminosity relation. Using these parallaxes to
inform that relationship, we anticipate a zero-point error of 0.04
magnitude. This result should greatly strengthen confidence in the
Population II distance scale and increase our understanding of RR
Lyrae star and Pop II Cepheid astrophysics.

ACS/SBC 11324
UV Contamination Monitor

The observations consist of imaging and spectroscopy with SBC of the
cluster NGC 6681 in order to monitor the temporal evolution of the UV
sensitivity of the SBC.

WFPC2 11316
HST Cycle 16 & Pre-SM4 Optical Monitor

This is a continuation of the Cycle 15 & pre-SM4 Optical Monitor,
11020. Please see that proposal for a more complete description of the
observing strategy. The 6 visits comprising this proposal observe two
single standard stars with WFPC2/PC in order to establish overall OTA
focal length for the purposes of focus maintenance. The goal of this
monitoring before SM4 is to establish a best estimate of the OTA focus
entering SMOV.

WFPC2 11302
WFPC2 CYCLE 16 Standard Darks – Part III

This dark calibration program obtains dark frames every week in order
to provide data for the ongoing calibration of the CCD dark current
rate, and to monitor and characterize the evolution of hot pixels.
Over an extended period these data will also provide a monitor of
radiation damage to the CCDs.

FLIGHT OPERATIONS SUMMARY:

Significant Spacecraft Anomalies: (The following are preliminary
reports of potential non-nominal performance that will be
investigated.)

HSTARS:

11787 – GSAcq(2,1,1) scheduled at 123/15:36:52 failed due to receiving
stop flags QF2STOPF and QSTOP on FGS 2.

Observations affected: ACS 4, Proposal ID # 11982

COMPLETED OPS REQUEST: (None)

COMPLETED OPS NOTES: (None)

SCHEDULED SUCCESSFUL

FGS GSAcq 21 20
FGS REAcq 16 16
OBAD with Maneuver 74 74

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS: (None)

SpaceRef staff editor.