Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4187

By SpaceRef Editor
August 29, 2006
Filed under , ,
NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4187

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science


PERIOD COVERED: UT August 28, 2006 (DOY 240)


ACS/HRC 10833

Host Galaxies of Reverberation Mapped AGNs

We propose to obtain unsaturated high-resolution images of 17 reverberation-mapped active galactic nuclei in order to remove the point-like nuclear light from each image, thus yielding a “nucleus-free” image of the host galaxy. This will allow investigation of host galaxy properties: our particular interest is determination of the host-galaxy starlight contribution to the reverberation-mapping observations. This is necessary {1} for accurate determination of the relationship between the AGN nuclear continuum flux and the size of the broad Balmer-line emitting regions of AGNs, which is important in estimating black hole masses for large samples of QSOs, and {2} for accurate determination of the bolometric luminosity of the AGN proper. Through observations in Cycles 12 and 14, we have obtained or will obtain images of 18 of the 35 objects in the reverberation-mapping compilation of Peterson et al. {2004}. These observations revealed that the host-galaxy contribution, even in the higher-luminosity AGNs, is higher than expected and that all of the reverberation-mapped AGNs will have to be observed, not just the lower-luminosity sources; each source is different, and each source is important. Therefore we request time to observe the 17 remaining reverberation-mapped AGNs.


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 May, 31 2006- Oct, 1-2006. The first half of the program has a different proposal number: 10729.

ACS/WFC 10505

The Onset of Star Formation in the Universe: Constraints from Nearby Isolated Dwarf Galaxies.

The details of the early star formation histories of tiny dwarf galaxies can shed light on the role in galaxy formation of the reionization which occured at high redshift. Isolated dwarfs are ideal probes since their evolution is not complicated by environmental effects owing to the vicinity of the Milky Way and M31. In addition, dwarf galaxies are the most common type of galaxies, and potentially the building blocks of larger galaxies. Since we can date the oldest stars in them, their study represents a complementary approach to the study of the formation and evolution of galaxies through high-z observations. We propose to use the ACS to obtain a homogeneus dataset of high-quality photometry, down to the old {13 Gyr} main-sequence turnoffs, for a representative sample of 4 isolated Local Group dwarf galaxies. These data are essential to unambiguously determine their early star formation histories, through comparison with synthetic color-magnitude diagrams, and using the constraints provided by their variable stars. Parallel WFPC2 observations of their halos will allow us to reveal the actual nature of their stellar population gradients, providing important aditional constraints on their evolution. The proposed observations are being complemented with ground-based spectroscopy, to obtain metallicity and kinematic information. The observations requested here, which must reach M_I=+3.5 {I=27.5- 28.2} with S/N=10 in crowded systems, can only be achieved with HST using ACS, and won’t be possible with planned ground- or space-based facilities such as JWST. Based on deep WFPC2 observations and ACS image simulations, our team has designed an observational strategy which carefully considers the optimal filter combination, the necessary photometry depth and the effects of stellar crowding.

ACS/WFC 10816

The Formation History of Andromeda’s Extended Metal-Poor Halo

We propose deep ACS imaging in the outer spheroid of the Andromeda galaxy, in order to measure the star formation history of its true halo. For the past 20 years, nearly all studies of the Andromeda “halo” were focused on the spheroid within 30 kpc of the galaxy’s center, a region now known to host significant substructure and populations with high metallicity and intermediate ages. However, two groups have recently discovered an extended metal-poor halo beyond 30 kpc; this population is distinct in its surface-brightness profile, abundance distribution, and kinematics. In earlier cycles, we obtained deep images of the inner spheroid {11 kpc on the minor axis}, outer disk {25 kpc on the major axis}, and giant tidal stream, yielding the complete star formation history in each field. We now propose deep ACS imaging of 4 fields bracketing this 30 kpc transition point in the spheroid, so that the inner spheroid and the extended halo populations can be disentangled, enabling a reconstruction of the star formation history in the halo. A wide age distribution in the halo, as found in the inner spheroid, would imply the halo was assembled through ongoing accretion of satellite galaxies, while a uniformly old population would be a strong indication that the halo was formed during the early rapid collapse of the Andromeda proto-galaxy.

ACS/WFC/NIC3 10632

Searching for galaxies at z>6.5 in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field

We propose to obtain deep ACS {F606W, F775W, F850LP} imaging in the area of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field NICMOS parallel fields and – through simultaneous parallel observations – deep NICMOS {F110W, F160W} imaging of the ACS UDF area. Matching the extreme imaging depth in the optical and near-IR bands will result in seven fields with sufficiently sensitive multiband data to detect the expected typical galaxies at z=7 and 8. Presently no such a field exist. Our combined optical and near-IR ultradeep fields will be in three areas separated by about 20 comoving Mpc at z=7. This will allow us to give a first assessment of the degree of cosmic variance. If reionization is a process extending over a large redshift interval and the luminosity function doesn’t evolve strongly beyond z=6, these data will allow us to identify of the order of a dozen galaxies at 6.5 < z < 8.5 - using the Lyman break technique - and to place a first constrain on the luminosity function at z> 6.5. Conversely, finding fewer objects would be an indication that the bulk of reionization is done by galaxies at z=6. By spending 204 orbits of prime HST time we will capitalize on the investment of 544 prime orbits already made on the Hubble Ultra Deep Field {UDF}. We have verified that the program as proposed is schedulable and that it will remain so even if forced to execute in the 2-gyro mode. The data will be non-proprietary and the reduced images will be made public within 2 months from the completion of the observations.

FGS 10989

Astrometric Masses of Extrasolar Planets and Brown Dwarfs

We propose observations with HST/FGS to estimate the astrometric elements {perturbation orbit semi-major axis and inclination} of extra-solar planets orbiting six stars. These companions were originally detected by radial velocity techniques. We have demonstrated that FGS astrometry of even a short segment of reflex motion, when combined with extensive radial velocity information, can yield useful inclination information {McArthur et al. 2004}, allowing us to determine companion masses. Extrasolar planet masses assist in two ongoing research frontiers. First, they provide useful boundary conditions for models of planetary formation and evolution of planetary systems. Second, knowing that a star in fact has a plantary mass companion, increases the value of that system to future extrasolar planet observation missions such as SIM PlanetQuest, TPF, and GAIA.

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 10527

Imaging Scattered Light from Debris Disks Discovered by the Spitzer Space Telescope Around 20 Sun-like Stars

We propose to use the high contrast capability of the NICMOS coronagraph to image a sample of newly discovered circumstellar disks associated with sun-like stars. These systems were identified by their strong thermal infrared emission with the Spitzer Space Telescope as part of the Spitzer Legacy Science program titled, “The Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems {FEPS}.” Modelling of the thermal excess emission in the form of spectral energy distributions alone cannot distinguish between narrowly confined high opacity disks and broadly distributed, low opacity disks. However, our proposed NICMOS observations can, by imaging the light scattered from this material. Even non- detections will place severe constraints on the disk geometry, ruling out models with high optical depth. Unlike previous disk imaging programs, our program contains a well defined sample of solar mass stars covering a range of ages from ~10Myrs to a few Gyrs, allowing us to study the evolution of disks from primordial to debris for the first time. These results will greatly improve our understanding of debris disks around Sun- like stars at stellar ages nearly 10x older than any previous investigation. Thus we will have fit a crucial piece into the puzzle concerning the formation and evolution of our own solar system.

NIC2, ACS/WFC 10802

SHOES-Supernovae, HO, for the Equation of State of Dark energy

The present uncertainty in the value of the Hubble constant {resulting in an uncertainty in Omega_M} and the paucity of Type Ia supernovae at redshifts exceeding 1 are now the leading obstacles to determining the nature of dark energy. We propose a single, integrated set of observations for Cycle 15 that will provide a 40% improvement in constraints on dark energy. This program will observe known Cepheids in six reliable hosts of Type Ia supernovae with NICMOS, reducing the uncertainty in H_0 by a factor of two because of the smaller dispersion along the instability strip, the diminished extinction, and the weaker metallicity dependence in the infrared. In parallel with ACS, at the same time the NICMOS observations are underway, we will discover and follow a sample of Type Ia supernovae at z > 1. Together, these measurements, along with prior constraints from WMAP, will provide a great improvement in HST’s ability to distinguish between a static, cosmological constant and dynamical dark energy. The Hubble Space Telescope is the only instrument in the world that can make these IR measurements of Cepheids beyond the Local Group, and it is the only telescope in the world that can be used to find and follow supernovae at z > 1. Our program exploits both of these unique capabilities of HST to learn more about one of the greatest mysteries in science.

WFPC2 10748

WFPC2 CYCLE 14 Standard Darks

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.


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

HSTARS: (None)



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


SpaceRef staff editor.