Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4190

By SpaceRef Editor
September 1, 2006
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4190

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science


PERIOD COVERED: UT August 31, 2006 (DOY 243)


ACS/HRC 10738

Earth Flats

Sky flats will be obtained by observing the bright Earth with the HRC and WFC. These observations will be used to verify the accuracy of the flats currently in the pipeline and to monitor any changes. Weekly coronagraphic monitoring is required to assess the changing position of the spots.

ACS/HRC 10800

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 to continue a Snapshot program using the ACS/HRC that has a demonstrated discovery potential an order of magnitude higher than the HST observations that have already discovered the majority of known transneptunian binaries. With this continuation we seek to reach the original goals of this project: to accumulate a sufficiently large sample in each of the distinct populations collected in the Kuiper Belt to be able to measure, with statistical significance, how the fraction of binaries varies as a function 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/HRC 10870

The Ring Plane Crossings of Uranus in 2007

The rings of Uranus turn edge-on to Earth in May and August 2007. In between, we will have a rare opportunity to see the unlit face of the rings. With the nine optically thick rings essentialy invisible, we will observe features and phenomena that are normally lost in their glare. We will use this opportunity to search thoroughly for the embedded “shepherd” moons long believed to confine the edges of the rings, setting a mass limit roughly 10 times smaller than that of the smallest shepherd currently known, Cordelia. We will measure the vertical thicknesses of the rings and study the faint dust belts only known to exist from a single Voyager image. We will also study the colors of the newly-discovered faint, outer rings; recent evidence suggests that one ring is red and the other blue, implying that each ring is dominated by a different set of physical processes. We will employ near-edge-on photometry from 2006 and 2007 to derive the particle filling factor within the rings, to observe how ring epsilon responds to the “traffic jam” as particles pass through its narrowest point, and to test the latest models for preserving eccentricities and apse alignment within the rings. Moreover, this data set will allow us to continue monitoring the motions of the inner moons, which have been found to show possibly chaotic orbital variations; by nearly doubling the time span of the existing ACS astrometry, the details of the variations will become much clearer.

ACS/HRC 10878

An ACS Prism Snapshot Survey for z~2 Lyman Limit Systems

We propose to conduct a spectroscopic survey of Lyman limit absorbers at redshifts 1.7 < z < 2.2, using ACS/HRC and the PR200L prism. We have selected 100 quasars at 2.3 < z < 2.6 from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Spectroscopic Quasar sample, for which no BAL signature is found at the QSO redshift and no strong metal absorption lines are present at z > 2.3 along the lines of sight. The survey has three main observational goals. First, we will determine the redshift frequency dN/dz of the LLS over the column density range 16.3


Hosts of Quasars with Opaque Partial Covering

A few quasars are known to exhibit associated absorption lines with opaque partial covering. These are the lines which are clearly saturated but not completely dark, so that these absorbing clouds are opaquely and partially covering the quasar light. In some cases, ionization parameter and density arguments indicate that the absorbers are on kpc scale. This implies that at least in some cases, the residual, unabsorbed optical {rest-UV} continuum component originates from ~kpc scales, rather than microscopic scales {such as ~100 Schwarzschild radii}. This could be a superluminous host galaxy or starbursting core, and could be resolved by HST. We address the nature of these opaquely and partially covered quasars with a simple and robust ACS imaging.

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/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 6.56.5. 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.

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 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.

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.

S/C 4974


The Transcient Response Test is for the periodic performance monitoring of the FGS 2R servo A mechanism.


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


10413 – GSAcq(1,3,3) Failed to RGA Control

At acquisition of signal 243/19:59:33, the GSAcq(1,3,3) scheduled at 243/19:39:30 – 19:47:34 was observed to have failed to RGA Hold, due to stop flag (QF1STOPF) indication on FGS-1. Pre-acquisition OBADs (RSS) attitude correction values not available due to LOS. Post-acquisition OBAD/MAP at 243/19:47:33 had 3-axis (RSS) error correction value of 4.86 arcseconds.

10414 – GSAcq (2,3,3) failed due to search radius limit exceeded on FGS 2

At AOS 244/02:18:37, GSAcq (2.3.3) scheduled at 244/01:42:54 – 01:50:11, had failed due to search radius limit exceeded on FGS 2. Previous OBAD’s were unavailable due to LOS. OBAD MAP showed RSS value of 84.30 a-s. Performed 486 STB dump which showed STB message “a05”, exceeded SRL was received at 244/01:47:43.

10415 – REAcq (2,3,3) failed to start

GSAcq (2,3,3) scheduled at 244/08:04:15 failed to start. No flags were observed. Pre-Acq OBAD’s RSS values were 1273.36 and 60.37 a-s. Post Acq OBAD Map showed RSS value of 19.16 a-s.


  • 17911-2 – TRT Test # 12 @ 243/1344z
  • 17914-1 – Genslew for proposal 10539 – slot 4 @ 243/2045z
  • 17915-0 – Genslew for proposal 10539 – slot 5 @ 243/2047z
  • 17916-0 – Genslew for proposal 10539 – slot 6 @ 243/2049z


                        SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL 
FGS GSacq               08                   06 
FGS REacq               05                   04 
OBAD with Maneuver  30                   30 


Flash Report: TRTT Successful

The 12th iteration of the Transient Rate Trending Test (TRTT) was successfully completed at 243/13:44z via Ops Request 17911. The analysis will be completed by OTA SEs and will be presented at the Guide Star Acq Working Group meeting on September 11.

SpaceRef staff editor.