Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4243

By SpaceRef Editor
November 22, 2006
Filed under , ,
NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4243


– Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: UT November 17,18,19, 2006 (DOY 321,322,323)


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.

ACS/WFC 11045

ACS internal CTE monitor

The charge transfer efficiency {CTE} of the ACS CCD detectors will decline as damage due to on-orbit radiation exposure accumulates. This degradation will be closely monitored at regular intervals, because it is likely to determine the useful lifetime of the CCDs. All the data for this program is acquired using internal targets {lamps} only, so all of the exposures should be taken during Earth occultation time {but not during SAA passages}. This program emulates the ACS pre-flight ground calibration and post-launch SMOV testing {program 8948}, so that results from each epoch can be directly compared. Extended Pixel Edge Response {EPER} and First Pixel Response {FPR} data will be obtained over a range of signal levels for both the Wide Field Channel {WFC}, and the High Resolution Channel {HRC}.

FGS 11018

Long Term Stability of FGS1r in Position Mode

It is known from our experience with FGS3, and later with FGS1r, that an FGS on orbit experiences long term evolution, presumably due to disorption of water from the instrument’s graphite epoxy composits. This manifests principly as a change in the plate scale and secondarily as a change in the geometric distortions. These effects are well modeled by adjustments to the rhoA and kA parameters which are used to transform the star selector servo angles into FGS {x, y} detector space coordinates. By observing the relative positions of selected stars in a standard cluster at a fixed telescope pointing and orientation, the evolution of rhoA and kA can be monitored and calibrated to preserve the astrometric performance of FGS1r.

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.

WFPC2 10915

ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey

Existing HST observations of nearby galaxies comprise a sparse and highly non-uniform archive, making comprehensive comparative studies among galaxies essentially impossible. We propose to secure HST’s lasting impact on the study of nearby galaxies by undertaking a systematic, complete, and carefully crafted imaging survey of ALL galaxies in the Local Universe outside the Local Group. The resulting images will allow unprecedented measurements of: {1} the star formation history {SFH} of a >100 Mpc^3 volume of the Universe with a time resolution of Delta[log{t}]=0.25; {2} correlations between spatially resolved SFHs and environment; {3} the structure and properties of thick disks and stellar halos; and {4} the color distributions, sizes, and specific frequencies of globular and disk clusters as a function of galaxy mass and environment. To reach these goals, we will use a combination of wide-field tiling and pointed deep imaging to obtain uniform data on all 72 galaxies within a volume-limited sample extending to ~3.5 Mpc, with an extension to the M81 group. For each galaxy, the wide-field imaging will cover out to ~1.5 times the optical radius and will reach photometric depths of at least 2 magnitudes below the tip of the red giant branch throughout the limits of the survey volume. One additional deep pointing per galaxy will reach SNR~10 for red clump stars, sufficient to recover the ancient SFH from the color-magnitude diagram. This proposal will produce photometric information for ~100 million stars {comparable to the number in the SDSS survey} and uniform multi-color images of half a square degree of sky. The resulting archive will establish the fundamental optical database for nearby galaxies, in preparation for the shift of high-resolution imaging to the near-infrared.

ACS/WFC 10905

The Dynamic State of the Dwarf Galaxy Rich Canes Venatici I Region

With accurate distances, the nearest groups of galaxies can be resolved in 3 dimensions and the radial component of the motions of galaxies due to local density perturbations can be distinquished from cosmological expansion components. Currently, with the ACS, galaxy distances within 8 Mpc can be measured effectively and efficiently by detecting the tip of the red giant branch {TRGB}. Of four principal groups at high galactic latitude in this domain, the Canes Venatici I Group {a} is the least studied, {b} is the most populated, though overwhelmingly by dwarf galaxies, and {c} is likely the least dynamically evolved. It is speculated that galaxies in low mass groups may fail to retain baryons as effectively as those in high mass groups, resulting in significantly higher mass-to-light ratios. The CVn I Group is suspected to lie in the mass regime where the speculated astrophysical processes that affect baryon retention are becoming important.

ACS/WFC 10895

Closure on the IRAS “Big Four”: A High Contrast Study of Epsilon Eridani’s Dust Belt in Scattered Light.

The ACS / HRC coronagraph has now demonstrated an unmatched capability to detect dusty debris disks around bright, nearby stars. Among the “Big Four” debris disks discovered with IRAS twenty years ago, only Epsilon Eridani {SpT=K2V, d=3.2 pc} has yet to be targeted with ACS. Beta Pictoris, Fomalhaut and Vega have been imaged with the ACS coronagraph, with the recent detection of reflected light from Fomalhaut’s dust belt {Kalas, Graham & Clampin 2005}. The direct detection of dust scattered light around Fomalhaut shows disk structure and asymmetry that can be directly linked to dynamical models of planetary perturbation. Here we propose to use the ACS HRC and WFC to detect Eps Eri’s dust belt. A new motivation to attempt this observations arises from recent 350 micron images that reveal two dust arcs ~60 AU to the southeast and northwest of the star. Contrary to previous 850 and 450 micron maps, the northwest arc is brighter than the southeast arc, and the northwest region has not been targeted by previous STIS imaging at lower contrast. The optical detection of dust features around Eps Eri would be significant because a high resolution optical image, together with Spitzer and sub-mm images, would help anchor dynamical models of Eps Eri’s planetary system, in addition to providing direct visual indications of disk-planet interactions.

ACS/WFC 10886

The Sloan Lens ACS Survey: Towards 100 New Strong Lenses

As a continuation of the highly successful Sloan Lens ACS {SLACS} Survey for new strong gravitational lenses, we propose one orbit of ACS-WFC F814W imaging for each of 50 high- probability strong galaxy-galaxy lens candidates. These observations will confirm new lens systems and permit immediate and accurate photometry, shape measurement, and mass modeling of the lens galaxies. The lenses delivered by the SLACS Survey all show extended source structure, furnishing more constraints on the projected lens potential than lensed-quasar image positions. In addition, SLACS lenses have lens galaxies that are much brighter than their lensed sources, facilitating detailed photometric and dynamical observation of the former. When confirmed lenses from this proposal are combined with lenses discovered by SLACS in Cycles 13 and 14, we expect the final SLACS lens sample to number 80–100: an approximate doubling of the number of known galaxy-scale strong gravitational lenses and an order-of-magnitude increase in the number of optical Einstein rings. By virtue of its homogeneous selection and sheer size, the SLACS sample will allow an unprecedented exploration of the mass structure of the early-type galaxy population as a function of all other observable quantities. This new sample will be a valuable resource to the astronomical community by enabling qualitatively new strong lensing science, and as such we will waive all but a short {3-month} proprietary period on the observations.

ACS/HRC 10877

A Snapshot Survey of the Sites of Recent, Nearby Supernovae

During the past few years, robotic {or nearly robotic} searches for supernovae {SNe}, most notably our Lick Observatory Supernova Search {LOSS}, have found hundreds of SNe, many of them in quite nearby galaxies {cz < 4000 km/s}. Most of the objects were discovered before maximum brightness, and have follow-up photometry and spectroscopy; they include some of the best-studied SNe to date. We propose to conduct a snapshot imaging survey of the sites of some of these nearby objects, to obtain late-time photometry that {through the shape of the light and color curves} will help reveal the origin of their lingering energy. The images will also provide high-resolution information on the local environments of SNe that are far superior to what we can procure from the ground. For example, we will obtain color-color and color-magnitude diagrams of stars in these SN sites, to determine the SN progenitor masses and constraints on the reddening. Recovery of the SNe in the new HST images will also allow us to actually pinpoint their progenitor stars in cases where pre- explosion images exist in the HST archive. This proposal is an extension of our successful Cycle 13 snapshot survey with ACS. It is complementary to our Cycle 15 archival proposal, which is a continuation of our long-standing program to use existing HST images to glean information about SN environments.

ACS/HRC 10860

The largest Kuiper belt object

The past year has seen an explosion in the discoveries of Pluto-sized objects in the Kuiper belt. With the discoveries of the methane-covered 2003 UB313 and 2005 FY9, the multiple satellite system of 2003 EL61, and the Pluto-Charon analog system of Orcus and its satellite, it is finally apparent that Pluto is not a unique oddball at the edge of the solar system, but rather one of a family of similarly large objects in the Kuiper belt and beyond. HST observations over the past decade have been critical for understanding the interior, surface, and atmosphere of Pluto and Charon. We propose here a comprehensive series of observations designed to similarly expand our knowledge of these recently discovered Pluto-sized and near-Pluto-sized Kuiper belt objects. These observations will measure objects’ sizes and densities, explore the outcome of collisions in the outer solar system, and allow the first ever look at the interior structure of a Kuiper belt object. Our wide field survey that discovered all of these objects is nearly finished, so after five years of continuous searching we are finally almost complete in our tally of these near-Pluto-sized objects. This large HST request is the culmination of this half-decade search for new planetary-sized objects. As has been demonstrated repeatedly by the approximately 100 previous orbits devoted to the study of Pluto, only HST has the resolution and sensitivity for detailed study of these distant objects.

NIC2 10856

Delayed Negative Feedback in the Super Star Clusters of SBS0335-052E

The critical unanswered question in calculations of galaxy formation and evolution is the degree of feedback from the formation of the first massive stars on subsequent evolution. Even the sign of the term is uncertain. Super Star Clusters give one very dramatic answer by forming several thousand O stars in a volume with a radius of only a few parsecs. How can that many massive stars form in such a small volume without immediate dissipation of all gas by the intense ionizing radiation from the stars? SBS0335-052E has done this, not once but at least 6 times in a region of approximately 500 parsecs in size. It has also managed to do this with the third lowest metallicity of any known galaxy. The record lowest metallicity is held by its companion SBS0335- 052W. These observations are designed to test one answer to this enigma; that all of the ionizing photons are absorbed within a few hundred AU of the stars that emit them. This delays the negative feedback from photoionization and allows the formation of other stars in the immediate neighborhood who are oblivious to the massive stars nearby. This scenario predicts that both molecular and ionized gas exist within the radius of the super star clusters and that their emission should be spatially coincident. We propose to test this hypothesis with high spatial resolution NICMOS camera 2 images in the hydrogen Pa alpha and molecular hydrogen {1-0} S{1} emission lines. Spatial coincidence of the emission regions will confirm that gas within the cluster is shielded from ionizing and dissociating photons and is capable of forming new stars within this tiny region in spite of the presence of thousands of massive stars. The current burst of star formation was probably triggered by interaction with the giant spiral galaxy NGC 1376. This proposal contains parallel observations of this galaxy with the ACS WFC. Due to the intense interest in SBS0335-052 we waive all proprietary rights. The observations will then immediately compliment observations by the Great Observatories, Spitzer and ground base observatories .

NIC2 10849

Imaging Scattered Light from Debris Disks Discovered by the Spitzer Space Telescope around 21 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 {IR} emission with the Spitzer Space Telescope as part of the Spitzer Legacy Science program titled “The Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems” {FEPS, P.I.: M.Meyer}. Modeling of the thermal excess emission from the spectral energy distributions alone cannot distinguish between narrowly confined high-opacity disks and broadly distributed, low-opacity disks. By resolving light scattered by the circumstellar material, our proposed NICMOS observations can break this degeneracy, thus revealing the conditions under which planet formation processes are occuring or have occured. For three of our IR-excess stars that have known radial-velocity planets, resolved imaging of the circumstellar debris disks may further offer an unprecedented view of planet-disk interactions in an extrasolar planetary system. Even non-detections of the light scattered by the circumstellar material will place strong constraints on the disk geometries, ruling out disk models with high optical depth. Unlike previous disk imaging programs, our program contains a well-defined sample of ~1 solar mass stars covering a range of ages from 3 Myr to 3 Gyr, thus allowing us to study the evolution of disks from primordial to debris for the first time. The results from our program will greatly improve our understanding of the architecture of debris disks around Sun-like stars, and will create a morphological context for the existence of our own solar system. This proposal is for a continuation of an approved Cycle 14 program {GO/10527, P.I.: D. Hines}.

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.

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.

ACS/HRC 10801

Direct Determination of Kuiper Belt Object Diameters with HST

When it comes to fundamental properties of an astronomical object, it is difficult to think of a more fundamental physical property than its size. Because of their distance, objects in the Kuiper Belt are generally too small for their disks to be resolved. The heterogeneous albedo and color of the Kuiper Belt population makes size estimates from observed absolute magnitude highly uncertain. And the long-awaited data from the Spitzer Space Telescope suffers from our ignorance of crucial macro- and micro-physical properties such as spin period, pole orientation, surface roughness, and thermal inertia. We propose to add a new dimension to the measurement of KBO diameters by employing two techniques that will directly measure the diameters of three large KBOs. We expect to obtain diameter measurements with uncertainties of 10% or better and utilize these to validate and cross calibrate the growing web of diameter measurements for KBOs.


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/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.

FGS 10613

Calibrating the Mass-Luminosity Relation at the End of the Main Sequence

We propose to use HST-FGS1R to calibrate the mass-luminosity relation {MLR} for stars less massive than 0.2 Msun, with special emphasis on objects near the stellar/brown dwarf border. Our goals are to determine M_V values to 0.05 magnitude, masses to 5 than double the number of objects with masses determined to be less than 0.20 Msun. This program uses the combination of HST-FGS3/FGS1R at optical wavelengths and ground-based infrared interferometry to examine nearby, subarcsecond binary systems. The high precision measurements with HST-FGS3/FGS1R {to 1 mas in the separations} for these faint targets {V = 10–15} simply cannot be equaled by any ground based technique. As a result of these measurements, we are deriving high quality luminosities and masses for the components in the observed systems, and characterizing their spectral energy distributions from 0.5 to 2.2 Mum. Several of the objects included have M < 0.1 Msun, placing them at the very end of the stellar main sequence. Three of the targets are brown dwarf candidates, including the current low mass record holder, GJ 1245C, with a mass of 0.062 +/- 0.004 Msun. The payoff of this proposal is high because all 10 of the systems selected have already been resolved with HST- FGS3/FGS1R during Cycles 5--10 and contain most of the reddest objects for which masses can be determined.

ACS/HRC 10607

Probing Circumstellar and Interstellar Dust with Scattered-Light Echoes

Scattered-light echoes are one of the most powerful and efficient probes of the structure and composition of dust in circumstellar and interstellar {ISM} environments. Observations of light echoes provide exact three-dimensional positions of dust while constraining its density, grain- size and chemical make-up. Furthermore, echoes can be used as distance indicators via polarization measurements. We propose to take deep, high-resolution ACS/HRC images of five supernovae {SNe}. Two of these, SNe 1991T and 1998bu, have known circumstellar echoes that have only recently become fully resolvable with HST, and therefore require new observations. Only four echo-producing SNe are currently known, and in an attempt to increase this sample, we will also observe SNe 1999bw, 2002hh, and 2004dj. All three SNe are strong candidates for producing echoes from circumstellar and ISM dust, but only at angular sizes that HST can resolve. With these observations, we will use light echoes to their full advantage, to study {1} the mass-loss histories of Type II and Ia SN progenitors, {2} the contributions of these SNe and their progenitors to the dust content of their galaxies, {3} the structure of gas and stars in the ISM of external galaxies, and {4} we will independently measure the distance to the host galaxies, including a member of the Virgo cluster, and M96, a Type Ia cosmological distance- scale calibrator.

NIC1 10517

Imaging Astrometrically-Discovered Brown Dwarfs

We propose to image the astrometrically discovered companions of three M-dwarfs with NICMOS to more tightly constrain their masses and determine their stellar or sub-stellar natures. Each of these systems has been observed with a sensitive ground-based adaptive optics system and no companions have been detected. NICMOS results will eliminate an ambiguity in the astrometric mass measurements that arises because a companion that contributes significantly to the visible light reduces the motion of the center of light and mimics a small motion of the center of mass. In addition the astrometric measurements made with NICMOS will fix the scale of the system, distinguishing among possible orbits. Finally the color photometry will constrain the spectral types to within a couple of subtypes. When we measure the masses of astrophysical objects, we test and assist the development of the theoretical mass models. Models are based upon parameters such as age and metallicity. Determining the correct mass thus deepens our understanding of the fundamental physics of stars and substellar objects


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

HSTARS: (None)



                       SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL 
FGS GSacq                20              20 
FGS REacq                09              09 
OBAD with Maneuver       57              57 


SpaceRef staff editor.