Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4160

By SpaceRef Editor
July 21, 2006
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4160

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science


PERIOD COVERED: UT July 20, 2006 (DOY 201)


ACS/HRC 10512

Search for Binaries Among Faint Jupiter Trojan Asteroids

We propose an ambitious SNAPSHOT program to survey faint Jupiter Trojan asteroids for binary companions. We target 150 objects, with the expectation of acquiring data on about 50%. These objects span Vmag = 17.5-19.5, a range inaccessible with ground-based adaptive optics. We now have a significant sample from our survey of brighter Trojans to suggest that the binary fraction is similar to that which we find among brighter main-belt asteroids, roughly 2%. However, our observations suggest a higher binary fraction for smaller main-belt asteroids, probably the result of a different formation mechanism {evident also from the physical characteristics of the binaries}. Because the collision environment among the Trojans is similar to that of the Main Belt, while the composition is likely to be very different, sampling the binary fraction among the fainter Trojans should help us understand the collisional and binary formation mechanisms at work in various populations, including the Kuiper Belt, and help us evaluate theories for the origin of the Trojans. Calibration of and constraints on models of binary production and collisional evolution can only be done using these large-scale, real-life physical systems that we are beginning now to find and utilize.

ACS/HRC 10598

ACS Imaging of Fomalhaut: A Rosetta Stone for Debris Disks Sculpted by Planets

The Sun and roughly 15% of stars are surrounded by dust disks collisionally replenished by asteroids and comets. Disk structure can be directly tied to the dynamical influence of more massive bodies such as planets. For example, planetary perturbations offset the center of our zodiacal dust disk ~0.01 AU away from the Sun and also maintain a ~40 AU radius inner edge to our Kuiper Belt. Here we propose follow-up observation to the first optical detection of reflected light from dust grains surrounding the nearby star Fomalhaut using HST/ACS. We find a belt of material between 133 and 158 AU radius that has a center position offset ~15 AU from the stellar position, and with a sharp inner edge. A tenuous dust component interior to the belt is also detected in the southeast. Given Fomalhaut’s proximity to the Sun {7.7 pc}, these images represent the closest and highest angular resolution view of an extrasolar analog to our Kuiper Belt. The center of symmetry offset and the sharp inner edge of Fomalhaut’s belt are evidence for planet-mass objects orbiting the star as predicted by dynamical theory and simulations. We propose comprehensive follow-up ACS imaging to fully exploit this discovery and map the disk around its entire circumference with higher signal-to-noise and at multiple wavelengths. HST/ACS is certainly the only facility capable of performing this relatively wide field optical study at high contrast ratios and diffraction-limited resolution. The Cycle 14 data will provide key measurements of belt width as a function of azimuth, the scattered light color of the belt versus the inner dust component, and the azimuthal structure of the belt. These data will be used to constrain dynamical models of resonances and shepherding that ultimately elucidate the dynamical properties of planet-mass objects in the system.


A Search for Debris Disks in the Coeval Beta Pictoris Moving Group

Resolved observations of debris disks present us with the opportunity of studying planetary evolution in other solar systems. We propose to search for debris disks in the Beta Pictoris moving group {8-20 Myrs, 10-50 pc away} , which provides a coeval sample of multiple spectral types, and it has already produced two magnificent resolved debris disks: AU Mic and Beta Pic. Such coeval sample will provide us with a snapshop of the crucial time in disk evolution in which the disk makes the transition from optically thick to optically thin, and it will be useful to study the stellar mass dependence of the disk evolution.

ACS/WFC 10551

Gamma-Ray Bursts from Start to Finish: A Legacy Approach

The progenitors of long-duration GRBs are now known to be massive stars. This result lends credence to the collapsar model, where a rotating massive star ends its life leaving a black hole or a highly magnetized neutron star, and confirms its essential aspects. The focus of attention now is on the black hole or magnetar engines that power the bursts. Somehow these engines create the most highly relativistic and highly collimated outflows that we know of, through mechanisms that no current theory can explain. These astrophysical laboratories challenge our understanding of relativistic shocks, of mechanisms for extracting energy from a black hole, and of how physics works in extreme conditions. The launch of Swift is bringing us into a new era, where we can make broadband observations that will enable us to study these fascinating physical processes. We propose here an ambitious, comprehensive program to obtain the datasets that will become the standard that any successful model for the central engine must explain. This programs leverages the HST observations to the maximum extent by our commitment of Swift observations, a Large program at the VLA, and extensive ground-based optical resources. By studying the engines and searching for jets in a variety of events, this program will investigate the conditions necessary for the engine and jet formation itself.


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.

CAL/NIC 10784

Further Test of the AUTORESET Mode on NICMO

Test of the short term temperature ripples in the NICMOS dewar. The test consists of running the NICMOS detectors without the AUTORESET mode on. Orbits free of NICMOS science observations are to be used and each mode {ON/OFF} will run for approximately 48 hours. The long duration is on order to allow the temperature in the dewar to stabilize. Normal telemetry data will be sufficient for the temperature monitoring. The darks that will be obtained with this program will also be used to assess the temperature stability, as well as a check of the impact of possible artefacts on the detectors.

NIC1/NIC2/NIC3 8794

NICMOS Post-SAA calibration – CR Persistence Part 5

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 10603

Multiwavelength Imaging of Edge-on Protoplanetary Disks: Quantifying the Growth of Circumstellar Dust

Young, edge-on circumstellar disks are uniquely valuable laboratories for the study of planet formation. In these objects, the central star is occulted from direct view, significant PSF artifacts are absent, and the disk is clearly seen as a central dust lane flanked by faint disk reflected light. The detailed morphology of these nebulae and its variation with wavelength provide crucial information on the disk internal structure and the properties of its constituent dust grains. A key observable is the slope defining the wavelength dependence of the dust scattering opacity, which becomes shallower when grain growth has taken place; multiwavelength resolved disk images are the key dataset enabling such measurements. Recent analyses of three different edge-on disks have revealed a diversity in their dust properties that is indicative of different degrees of dust grain evolution having taken place in each system. This characterization of disk grain growth, when applied comparatively to a larger sample of these objects, would enable the construction of an evolutionary sequence of young disks at successive stages on the road to planet formation. In pursuit of this goal, we have identified a sample of 15 edge-on disks previously discovered by HST or groundbased telescopes, but for which high fidelity, high spatial resolution images do not yet exist in both the optical and near-infrared. We propose broad-band multicolor imaging with NICMOS of all these targets, and ACS imaging of nine of these targets In combination with existing data, the proposed images will form a complete database of high resolution optical/near-IR images for these 15 disk systems. Scattered light modeling will be used to derive the disk structure and dust properties, yielding results that will be of fundamental importance for our understanding of grain properties during protoplanetary disk evolution.

WFPC2 10767

Further Resolving the Puzzle of Hybrid Star X-rays

Do Alpha TrA {K2II} and Beta Ind {K1II} have previously unrecognized X-ray active dwarf companions, leading us astray concerning the coronal properties of the “hybrid- chromosphere” class? Establishing the true X-ray luminosities of the hybrids is a basis for understanding magnetic field generation in evolved supergiants, the driving of their winds, and the seeding of coronal conditions in their extended outer envelopes. It also bears on the issue of late-type dwarfs orbiting main sequence B stars, the evolutionary predecessors of K bright giants. We propose to directly image the putative hybrid companions using Chandra, with supporting observations from HST/WFPC2.


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

HSTARS: (None)


#17858-1 RF Transfer Switch Scrub @ 201/15:49z

#17861-1 Clear ACS Event Flag 2 @ 201/20:40z


                                        SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL 
GSacq                          09                        09 

REacq                          04                        04 
OBAD with Maneuver             28                        28 


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