Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4026

By SpaceRef Editor
January 12, 2006
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4026

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science


PERIOD COVERED: UT January 11, 2006 (DOY 011)


ACS/HRC 10545

Icy planetoids of the outer solar system

Early HST studies of satellites of Kuiper belt object focussed on the 50-200 km objects that were the largest known at the time. In the past 3 years we have discovered a population of much more rare and much larger {500-2000+ km} icy planetoids in the Kuiper belt. These objects are the largest and brightest known in the Kuiper belt and, in the era when we now know of more than 1000 Kuiper belt objects, these few planetoids are likely to be the focus of much of the research on physical properties of the outer solar system for years to come. We are currently engaged in an intensive program involving Spitzer, Keck, and other telescopes to study the physical and dynamical properties of this new population. HST is uniquely capable of addressing one parameter fundamental to completing the physical picture of these planetoids: the existence and size of any satellites. The detection and characterization of satellites to these large planetoids would allow us to address unique issues critical to the formation and evolution of the outer solar system, including the measurement of densities, internal properties, sizes and shapes of these objects, the study of binary formation as a function of primary size, and the context of the Pluto-Charon binary. For these bright objects, a satellite search takes less than a full orbit, allowing the opportunity for a new project on UV spectroscopy of the planetoids to piggyback at no added time cost. This poorly explored spectral range has the potential to show unique signatures of trapped gasses, cosmochemically important ices, and complex organic materials.

ACS/HRC 10556

Neutral Gas at Redshift z=0.5

Damped Lyman-alpha systems {DLAs} are used to track the bulk of the neutral hydrogen gas in the Universe. Prior to HST UV spectroscopy, they could only be studied from the ground at redshifts z>1.65. However, HST has now permitted us to discover 41 DLAs at z<1.65 in our previous surveys. Followup studies of these systems are providing a wealth of information about the evolution of the neutral gas phase component of the Universe. But one problem is that these 41 low-redshift systems are spread over a wide range of redshifts spanning nearly 70% of the age of the Universe. Consequently, past surveys for low-redshift DLAs have not been able to offer very good precision in any small redshift regime. Here we propose an ACS-HRC- PR200L spectroscopic survey in the redshift interval z=[0.37, 0.7] which we estimate will permit us to discover another 41 DLAs. This will not only allow us to double the number of low-redshift DLAs, but it will also provide a relatively high-precision regime in the low-redshift Universe that can be used to anchor evolutionary studies. Fortunately DLAs have high absorption equivalent width, so ACS-HRC-PR200L has high-enough resoultion to perform this proposed MgII-selected DLA survey.


Kuiper Belt Binaries: Probes of Early Solar System Evolution

Binaries in the Kuiper Belt are a scientific windfall: in them we have relatively fragile test particles which can be used as tracers of the early dynamical evolution of the outer Solar System. We propose a Snapshot program using the ACS/HRC that has a potential discovery efficiency an order of magnitude higher than the HST observations that have already discovered the majority of known transneptunian binaries. By more than doubling the number of observed objects in dynamically hot and cold subpopulations we will be able to answer, with statistical significance, the question of whether these groups differ in the abundance of binaries as a result of their particular dynamical paths into the Kuiper Belt. Today’s Kuiper Belt bears the imprints of the final stages of giant-planet building and migration; binaries may offer some of the best preserved evidence of that long-ago era.


ACS CCDs daily monitor

This program consists of a set of basic tests to monitor, the read noise, the development of hot pixels and test for any source of noise in ACS CCD detectors. The files, biases and dark will be used to create reference files for science calibration. This programme will be for the entire lifetime of ACS. Changes from cycle 13:- The default gain for WFC is 2 e-/DN. As before bias frames will be collected for both gain 1 and gain 2. Dark frames are acquired using the default gain {2}. This program cover the period Oct, 2 2005- May, 29-2006. The second half of the program has a different proposal number: 10758.

ACS/WFC 10543

Microlensing in M87 and the Virgo Cluster

Resolving the nature of dark matter is an urgent problem. The results of the MACHO survey of the Milky Way dark halo toward the LMC indicate that a significant fraction of the halo consists of stellar mass objects. The VATT/Columbia survey of M31 finds a similar lens fraction in the M31 dark halo. We propose a series of observations with ACS that will provide the most thorough search for microlensing toward M87, the central elliptical galaxy of the Virgo cluster. This program is optimized for lenses in the mass range from 0.01 to 1.0 solar masses. By comparing with archival data, we can detect lenses as massive as 100 solar masses, such as the remnants of the first stars. These observations will have at least 15 times more sensitivity to microlensing than any previous survey, e.g. using WFPC2. This is due to the factor of 2 larger area, factor of more than 4 more sensitivity in the I-band, superior pixel scale and longer baseline of observations. Based on the halo microlensing results in the Milky Way and M31, we might expect that galaxy collisions and stripping would populate the overall cluster halo with a large number of stellar mass objects. This program would determine definitively if such objects compose the cluster dark matter at the level seen in the Milky Way. A negative result would indicate that such objects do not populate the intracluster medium, and may indicate that galaxy harassment is not as vigorous as expected. We can measure the level of events due to the M87 halo: this would be the best exploration to date of such a lens population in an elliptical galaxy. Star-star lensing should also be detectable. About 20 erupting classical novae will be seen, allowing to determine the definitive nova rate for this giant elliptical galaxy. We will determine if our recent HST detection of an M87 globular cluster nova was a fluke, or indicative of a 100x higher rate of incidence of cataclysmic variables and nova eruptions in globulars than previously believed. We will examine the populations of variable stars, and will be able to cleanly separate them from microlensing.

ACS/WFC 10592

An ACS Survey of a Complete Sample of Luminous Infrared Galaxies in the Local Universe

At luminosities above 10^11.4 L_sun, the space density of far-infrared selected galaxies exceeds that of optically selected galaxies. These `luminous infrared galaxies’ {LIRGs} are primarily interacting or merging disk galaxies undergoing enhanced star formation and Active Galactic Nuclei {AGN} activity, possibly triggered as the objects transform into massive S0 and elliptical merger remnants. We propose ACS/WFC imaging of a complete sample of 88 L_IR > 10^11.4 L_sun luminous infrared galaxies in the IRAS Revised Bright Galaxy Sample {RBGS: i.e., 60 micron flux density > 5.24 Jy}. This sample is ideal not only in its completeness and sample size, but also in the proximity and brightness of the galaxies. The superb sensitivity, resolution, and field of view of ACS/WFC on HST enables a unique opportunity to study the detailed structure of galaxies that sample all stages of the merger process. Imaging will be done with the F439W and F814W filters {B and I-band} to examine as a function of both luminosity and merger state {i} the evidence at optical wavelengths of star formation and AGN activity and the manner in which instabilities {bars and bridges} in the galaxies may funnel material to these active regions, {ii} the relationship between star formation and AGN activity, and {iii} the structural properties {AGN, bulge, and disk components} and fundamental parameters {effective radius and surface brightness} of LIRGs and their similarity with putative evolutionary byproducts {elliptical, S0 and classical AGN host galaxies}. This HST survey will also bridge the wavelength gap between a Spitzer imaging survey {covering seven bands in the 3.6-160 micron range} and a GALEX UV imaging survey of these galaxies, but will resolve complexes of star clusters and multiple nuclei at resolutions well beyond the capabilities of either Spitzer or GALEX. The combined datasets will result in the most comprehensive multiwavelength study of interacting and merging galaxies to date.

ACS/WFC 10715

CSL-1: a peculiar gravitational lens and possible cosmic string

Much recent work {see for instance Huterer & Vachaspati 2003; Kibble 2004; Polchinski 2004} has emphasized the importance that the peculiar object CSL-1 could bear on elementary particle physics and cosmology, in the case that its nature as the first observational evidence for lensing of a galaxy by a cosmic string could be confirmed. CSL-1 was discovered by the proponents who also proposed several observational tests to definitively pinpoint its nature {Sazhin et al. 2003, 2004}. With this proposal we plan to carry the most important of such tests: id est, to use the ACS/WFC to detect the sharp morphological features produced by a cosmic string and to check whether the other gravitational lens candidates, detected by the authors in the region around CSL-1 on photometric grounds only {Sazhin et al. 2004}, present similar peculiar features. Following Kibble {2004} and many others, we wish to stress that, could its link to a cosmic string be confirmed, CSL-1 will provide the first measurement ever of the energy scale of the symmetry breaking and of the energy scale of the Grand Unification Theory {GUT}, and will open a new way to investigate fundamental physics using astronomical instruments.

FGS 10104

Calibrating the Mass-Luminosity Relation at the End of the Main Sequence

We propose to use HST-FGS1R to calibrate the mass-luminosity relation {MLR} for stars less massive than 0.2 Msun, with special emphasis on objects near the stellar/brown dwarf border. Our goals are to determine M_V values to 0.05 magnitude, masses to 5 than double the number of objects with masses determined to be less than 0.20 Msun. This program uses the combination of HST-FGS3/FGS1R at optical wavelengths and ground-based infrared interferometry to examine nearby, subarcsecond binary systems. The high precision measurements with HST-FGS3/FGS1R {to 1 mas in the separations} for these faint targets {V = 10–15} simply cannot be equaled by any ground based technique. As a result of these measurements, we are deriving high quality luminosities and masses for the components in the observed systems, and characterizing their spectral energy distributions from 0.5 to 2.2 Mum. Several of the objects included have M < 0.1 Msun, placing them at the very end of the stellar main sequence. Three of the targets are brown dwarf candidates, including the current low mass record holder, GJ 1245C, with a mass of 0.062 +/- 0.004 Msun. The payoff of this proposal is high because all 10 of the systems selected have already been resolved with HST- FGS3/FGS1R during Cycles 5--10 and contain most of the reddest objects for which masses can be determined.

NIC1/NC2/NC3 10723

Cycle 14 NICMOS dark current, shading profile, and read noise monitoring program

The purpose of this proposal is to monitor the dark current, read noise, and shading profile for all three NICMOS detectors throughout the duration of Cycle 14. This proposal is a slightly modified version of proposal 10380 of cycle 13 and 9993 of cycle12 that we cut down some exposure time to make the observation fit within 24 orbits.

NIC1/NIC2/NIC3 8793

NICMOS Post-SAA calibration – CR Persistence Part 4

A new procedure proposed to alleviate the CR-persistence problem of NICMOS. Dark frames will be obtained immediately upon exiting the SAA contour 23, and every time a NICMOS exposure is scheduled within 50 minutes of coming out of the SAA. The darks will be obtained in parallel in all three NICMOS Cameras. The POST-SAA darks will be non-standard reference files available to users with a USEAFTER date/time mark. The keyword ‘USEAFTER=date/time’ will also be added to the header of each POST-SAA DARK frame. The keyword must be populated with the time, in addition to the date, because HST crosses the SAA ~8 times per day so each POST-SAA DARK will need to have the appropriate time specified, for users to identify the ones they need. Both the raw and processed images will be archived as POST-SAA DARKSs. Generally we expect that all NICMOS science/calibration observations started within 50 minutes of leaving an SAA will need such maps to remove the CR persistence from the science images. Each observation will need its own CRMAP, as different SAA passages leave different imprints on the NICMOS detectors.

WFPC2 10777

WFPC2 WF4 Bay 1 Temperature Reduction Test #1

A anomaly has been found in images from the WF4 CCD in WFPC2. The WF4 CCD bias level appears to have become unstable, resulting in sporadic images with either low or zero bias level. The severity and frequency of the problem is rapidly increasing, and it is possible that WF4 will soon become unusable if no work-around is found. The other three CCDs {PC1, WF2, and WF3} appear to be unaffected and continue to operate properly. This proposal tests methods to fix the problem by adjusting some temperatures inside WFPC2. 1 external and 24 internal orbits.


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

HSTARS: (None)



                          SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL
FGS GSacq                08                    08
FGS REacq                06                     06
OBAD with Maneuver   29                    29


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