Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4082

By SpaceRef Editor
April 1, 2006
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4082

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science


PERIOD COVERED: UT March 30, 2006 (DOY 089)


ACS/HRC 10617

HST / Chandra Monitoring of a Dramatic Flare in the M87 Jet

As the nearest galaxy with an optical jet, M87 affords an unparalleled opportunity to study extragalactic jet phenomena at the highest resolution. During 2002, HST and Chandra monitoring of the M87 jet detected a dramatic flare in knot HST-1 located ~1″ from the nucleus. As of late 2004 its brightness has increased fifty-fold in the optical band, and continues to increase sharply; the X-rays show a similarly dramatic outburst. In both bands HST-1 now greatly exceeds the nucleus in brightness. To our knowledge this is the first incidence of an optical or X-ray outburst from a jet region which is spatially distinct from the core source — this presents an unprecedented opportunity to study the processes responsible for non-thermal variability and the X-ray emission. We propose seven epochs of HST/STIS monitoring during Cycle 14, as well as seven epochs of Chandra/ACIS observation {5ksec each}. We also include a brief HRC/ACS observations that will be used to gather spectral information and map the magnetic field structure. The results of this investigation are of key importance not only for understanding the nature of the X-ray emission of the M87 jet, but also for understanding flares in blazar jets, which are highly variable, but where we have never before been able to resolve the flaring region in the optical or X-rays. These observations will allow us to test synchrotron emission models for the X-ray outburst, constrain particle acceleration and loss timescales, and study the jet dynamics associated with this flaring component.


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/WFC 10591

ACS Observations of the Galaxies in A Giant Ly-alpha Nebula at z~2.7

Giant Ly-alpha nebulae appear to be sites of ongoing massive galaxy formation, as evidenced by their association with very luminous, young, star-forming galaxies and large galaxy overdensities. However the origin of the extended gas and the source of ionization remain mysterious. We have discovered a ~200 kpc size nebula which appears to contain a number of embedded sources, including a very obscured, luminous mid-infrared source and a Lyman break galaxy. We propose to obtain deep ACS and NICMOS images of this nebula in order to: {i} determine the spatial morphology of the Ly-alpha emission on sub-kpc scales; {ii} precisely locate the known continuum sources within the nebula; {ii} determine their morphologies; {iii} detect the source of ionizing photons at the very center of the nebula; {iv} constrain the ionizing luminosity contributed by a possible distributed population of faint, compact continuum sources in the nebula; and {v} by SED fitting of population synthesis models, constrain the ages of the ionizing sources with the aim of determining the timescale of the galaxy formation process in the nebula.

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 10775

An ACS Survey of Galactic Globular Clusters

We propose to conduct an ACS/WFC imaging survey of Galactic globular clusters. We will construct the most extensive and deepest set of photometry and astrometry to-date for these systems reaching a main sequence mass of ~0.2 solar mass with S/N >= 10. We will combine these data with archival WFPC2 and STIS images to determine proper motions for the stars in our fields. The resultant cleaned cluster CMDs will allow us to study a variety of scientific questions. These include [but are not limited to] 1} the determination of cluster ages and distances 2} the construction of main sequence mass functions and the issue of mass segregation 3} the internal motions and dynamical evolution of globular clusters, and 4} absolute cluster motions, orbits, and the Milky Way gravitational potential. We anticipate that the unique resource provided by the proposed treasury archive will play a central role in the field of globular cluster studies for decades, with a stature comparable to that of the Hubble Deep Field for high redshift studies.


What Are Stalled Preplanetary Nebulae? An ACS SNAPshot Survey

Essentially all planetary nebulae {PNs} are aspherical, whereas the mass-loss envelopes of AGB stars are strikingly spherical. Our previous SNAPshot surveys of a morphologically unbiased sample of pre-planetary nebulae {PPNs} — objects in transition between the AGB and PN evolutionary phases — show that roughly half our observed targets are resolved, with bipolar or multipolar morphologies. Spectroscopic observations of our sample confirm that these objects have not yet evolved into planetary nebulae. Thus, the transformation from spherical to aspherical geometries has already fully developed by the time these dying stars have become PPNs. Although our current studies have yielded exciting results, they are limited in two important ways — {1} the number of well-resolved objects is still small {18}, and the variety of morphologies observed relatively multitudinous, hence no clear trends can yet be established between morphology and other source properties {e.g., near-IR, far-IR colors, stellar spectral type, envelope mass}, and {2} the current samples are strongly biased towards small PPNs, as inferred from their low 60-to-25 micron flux ratios [R{60/25}<1]. However, the prototype of objects with R{60/25}>1, the Frosty Leo Nebula, has a puzzlingly large post-AGB age {almost 10^4 yr} and a fairly cool central star, very different from the expectations of single-star stellar evolutionary models. A proposed, but still speculative, hypothesis for such objects is that the slow evolution of the central star is due to backflow of material onto the mass-losing star, retarding its evolution towards the PN phase. This hypothesis has significant consequences for both stellar and nebular evolution. We therefore propose a survey of PPNs with R{60/25}>1 which is heavily weighted towards the discovery of such “stalled PPNs”. Supporting kinematic observations using long-slit optical spectroscopy {with the Keck}, millimeter and radio interferometric observations {with OVRO, VLA & VLBA} are being undertaken. The results from this survey {together with our previous work} will allow us to draw general conclusions about the complex mass-outflow processes affecting late stellar evolution, and will provide crucial input for theories of post-AGB stellar evolution. Our survey will produce an archival legacy of long-standing value for future studies of dying stars.

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.

NIC2 10519

Testing the Stellar Coalescence and Accretion Disk Theories of Massive Star Formation with NICMOS

The importance of massive stars cannot be underestimated – they produce most of the heavy elements in the universe and dominate the evolution of the interstellar medium in their vicinity. In spite of their significance, our understanding of their formation is meager. Both accretion through disks, analogous to the process of low-mass star formation, and coalescence of low-mass stars through collisions in the dense cores of stellar clusters have been suggested. Possibly both mechanisms occur. High spatial resolution polarization measurements of the closest massive young stellar objects {YSOs} will enable us to search for evidence of disk accretion or coalescence in the form of patterns indicative of light scattered off a coherent disk or off a disk disrupted by an infalling star, respectively. Here we propose to use 2 micron polarimetry with NICMOS to identify the presence of accretion disks around massive YSOs or to characterize their environments as possibly disrupted from a close stellar encounter. There are only a few sources that meet the stringent selection criteria for this investigation {even with HST}, which we will examine here. High spatial resolution is required, but even more important, the point spread function {PSF} must be stable with time. Furthermore, the PSF must put minimal flux into large spatial scales, something that cannot be achieved with adaptive optics. This combination of high Strehl ratio and stable PSF can only be achieved from space.

WFPC2 10751

WFPC2 CYCLE 14 Intflat Linearity Check and Filter Rotation Anomaly Monitor

Intflat observations will be taken to provide a linearity check: the linearity test consists of a series of intflats in F555W, in each gain and each shutter. A combination of intflats, visflats, and earthflats will be used to check the repeatability of filter wheel motions. {Intflat sequences tied to decons, visits 1-18 in prop 10363, have been moved to the cycle 14 decon proposal 10744 for easier scheduling.} Note: long-exposure WFPC2 intflats must be scheduled during ACS anneals to prevent stray light from the WFPC2 lamps from contaminating long ACS external exposures.


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

HSTARS: (None)


17681-0 – Genslew for proposal 10487 – slot 6 @ 089/19:54z

17682-0 – Genslew for proposal 10487 – slot 5 @ 089/19:57z

17684-0 – Genslew for proposal 10487 – slot 4 @ 089/19:59z

17685-0 – Genslew for proposal 10487 – slot 3 @ 089/20:00z


FGS GSacq 09 09
FGS REacq 06 06
OBAD with Maneuver 30 30


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