Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4188

By SpaceRef Editor
August 30, 2006
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4188

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science


PERIOD COVERED: UT August 29, 2006 (DOY 241)


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.

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 10630

The Fine Structure of Elliptical Galaxies in Voids

Elliptical galaxies constitute a remarkably homogeneous class of objects with a tight color- magnitude relation and a well-defined Fundamental Plane. In spite of their bland and symmetrical morphology, they are characterized by a wealth of structural features {such as nuclear disks, dust lanes, shells, blue cores, etc.} which contain important clues to their formation history. Little is known about how and if these sub-structures vary as a function of environment; in fact, due to the morphology density relation, our knowledge of ellipticals is strongly biased towards overdense regions such as clusters. But what of the fine structure of ellipticals in voids? According to theoretical predictions, void galaxies should have different merger histories than those in clusters, which may imply that their fine structure also differs. We address these issues using the exquisite angular resolution of HST/ACS to resolve sub-structures in the most accurately classified sample, to date, of truly isolated ellipticals, identified using the 2dFGRS.

ACS/WFC 10829

Secular Evolution at the End of the Hubble Sequence

The bulgeless disk galaxies at the end of the Hubble Sequence evolve at a glacial pace relative to their more violent, earlier-type cousins. The causes of their internal, or secular evolution are important because secular evolution represents the future fate of all galaxies in our accelerating Universe and is a key ingredient to understanding galaxy evolution in lower-density environments at present. The rate of secular evolution is largely determined by the stability of the cold ISM against collapse, star formation, and the buildup of a central bulge. Key diagnostics of the ISM’s stability are the presence of compact molecular clouds and narrow dust lanes. Surprisingly, edge-on, pure disk galaxies with circular velocities below 120 km/s do not appear to contain such dust lanes. We propose to obtain ACS/WFC F606W images of a well-selected sample of extremely late-type disk galaxies to measure the characteristic scale size of the cold ISM and determine if they possess the unstable, cold ISM necessary to drive secular evolution. Our sample has been carefully constructed to include disk galaxies above and below the critical circular velocity of 120 km/s where the dust properties of edge-on disks change so remarkably. We will then use surface brightness profiles to search for nuclear star clusters and pseudobulges, which are early indicators that secular evolution is at work, as well as measure the pitch angle of the dust lanes as a function of radius to estimate the central mass concentrations.

FGS 10928

Calibrating Cosmological Chronometers: White Dwarf Masses

We propose to use HST/FGS1R to determine White Dwarf {WD} masses. The unmatched resolving power of HST/FGS1R will be utilized to follow up four selected WD binary pairs. This high precision obtained with HST/FGS1R simply cannot be equaled by any ground based technique. This proposed effort complements that done by CoI Nelan in which a sample of WDs is being observed with HST/FGS1R. This proposal will dramatically increase the number of WDs for which dynamical mass measurements are possible, enabling a better calibration of the WD mass-radius relation, cooling curves, initial to final mass relations, and ultimately giving important clues to the star formation history of our Galaxy and the age of its disk as well as in other galaxies.

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.

WFPC2 10745


This calibration proposal is the Cycle 14 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.


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

HSTARS: (None)


10412 – GSAcq(2,1,1) Failed to RGA Control

GSAcq(2,1,1) scheduled at 242/01:45:37 – 01:53:41 was observed to have failed to RGA Hold, due to STOP flag indication on FGS-2.Pre-acquisition OBADs (RSS) attitude corrections values not available due to LOS. Post-acquisition OBAD/MAP at 242/01:53:40 had 3-axis (RSS) error correction value of 11.08 arcseconds.


                          SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL 
FGS GSacq               10                     09 
FGS REacq                05                    05 
OBAD with Maneuver   30                    30 


SpaceRef staff editor.