Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4261

By SpaceRef Editor
December 18, 2006
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4261


– Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: UT December 15,16,17, 2006 (DOY 3349,350,351)


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.

ACS/HRC 11041

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. For cycle 15 the program will cover 18 months 12.1.06->05.31.08 and it has been divied into three different proposal each covering six months. The three proposals are 11041-11042-11043.

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.

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/HRC 10909

Exploring the diversity of cosmic explosions: The supernovae of gamma-ray bursts

While the connection between gamma-ray bursts {GRBs} and supernovae {SNe} is now clearly established, there is a large variety of observational properties among these SNe and the physical parameters of these explosions are poorly known. As part of a comprehensive program, we propose to use HST in order to obtain basic information about the supernovae associated with gamma-ray bursts. HST offers the means to cleanly separate the light curves of the GRB afterglow from the supernova, and to remove the contamination from the host galaxy, opening a clear route to the fundamental parameters of the SN. From these observations, we will determine the absolute magnitude at maximum, the shape of the spectral energy distribution, and any change over time of the energy distribution. We will also measure the rate of decay of the exponential tail. Merged with the ground-based data that we will obtain for each event, we will be able to compare our data set to models and constrain the energy of the explosion, the mass of the ejecta and the mass of Nickel synthesized during the explosion. These results will shed light on the apparent variety of supernovae associated with gamma-ray bursts and X-ray flashes, and on the relation between these SNe and other, more common varieties of core- collapse explosions.

NIC1 10889

The Nature of the Halos and Thick Disks of Spiral Galaxies

We propose to resolve the extra-planar stellar populations of the thick disks and halos of seven nearby, massive, edge-on galaxies using ACS, NICMOS, and WFPC2 in parallel. These observations will provide accurate star counts and color-magnitude diagrams 1.5 magnitudes below the tip of the Red Giant Branch sampled along the two principal axes and one intermediate axis of each galaxy. We will measure the metallicity distribution functions and stellar density profiles from star counts down to very low average surface brightnesses, equivalent to ~32 V- mag per square arcsec. These observations will provide the definitive HST study of extra-planar stellar populations of spiral galaxies. Our targets cover a range in galaxy mass, luminosity, and morphology and as function of these galaxy properties we will provide: – The first systematic study of the radial and isophotal shapes of the diffuse stellar halos of spiral galaxies – The most detailed comparative study to date of thick disk morphologies and stellar populations – A comprehensive analysis of halo and thick disk metallicity distributions as a function of galaxy type and position within the galaxy. – A sensitive search for tidal streams – The first opportunity to directly relate globular cluster systems to their field stellar population We will use these fossil records of the galaxy assembly process preserved in the old stellar populations to test halo and thick disk formation models within the hierarchical galaxy formation scheme. We will test LambdaCDM predictions on sub-galactic scales, where it is difficult to test using CMB and galaxy redshift surveys, and where it faces its most serious difficulties.

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/WFC 10882

Emission Line Snapshots of 3CR Radio Galaxies

Radio galaxies are an important class of extragalactic objects: they are one of the most energetic astrophysical phenomena and they provide an exceptional probe of the evolving Universe, lying typically in high density regions but well-represented across a wide redshift range. In earlier Cycles we carried out extensive HST observations of the 3CR sources in order to acquire a complete and quantitative inventory of the structure, contents and evolution of these important objects. We discovered new optical jets, dust lanes, and revealed point-like nuclei whose properties support AGN unified schemes. Here, we propose to obtain ACS emission line images at low and high excitation of 3CR sources with z<0.3, both low- and classical high- power radio galaxies, as a major enhancement to an already superb dataset. We aim to probe fundamental relationships between warm optical line-emitting gas, radio source structure {jets and lobes} and X-ray coronal halos. We will combine our existing UV images with new emission- line images to establish quantitative star formation characteristics and their relation to dust and merging, and with emission-line excitation maps, test theories on ionization beam patterns and luminosities from active nuclei. We will seek jet induced star formation and knowing optical emission-line physics, investigate quantitative jet physics. The nuclear emission line properties of the galaxies will themselves be established and used as ingredients in continuing tests of unified AGN theories. The resulting database will be an incredibly valuable resource to the astronomical community for years to come.

ACS/WFC 10880

The host galaxies of QSO2s: AGN feeding and evolution at high luminosities

Now that the presence of supermassive black holes in the nuclei of galaxies is a well established fact, other questions related to the AGN phenomena still have to be answered. Problems of particular interest are how the AGN gets fed, how the black hole evolves and how the evolution of the black hole is related to the evolution of the galaxy bulge. Here we propose to address some of these issues using ACS/WFC + F775W snapshot images of 73 QSO2s with redshifts in the range 0.3< z<0.4. These observations will be combined with similar archival data of QSO1s and ground based data of Seyfert and normal galaxies. First, we will intestigate whether interactions are the most important feeding mechanism in high luminosity AGNs. This will be done in a quantitative way, comparing the asymmetry indices of QSO2 hosts with those of lower luminosity AGNs and normal galaxies. Second, we will do a detailed study of the morphology of the host galaxies of both QSO types, to determine if they are similar, or if there is an evolutionary trend from QSO2s to QSO1s. The results from this project will represent an important step in the understanding of AGN evolution, and may also introduce a substantial modification to the Unified Model.

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 < log N_HI < 20.3 cm^-2. Second, we will measure the column density frequency distribution f{N} for the partial Lyman limit systems {PLLS} over the column density range 16.3 < log N_HI < 17.5 cm^-2. Third, we will identify new sightlines for measurements of the primordial D/H ratio. With this survey, we will also constrain two key quantities of cosmological relevance: First, the measurements of dN/dz for optically thick LLS and f{N} for the PLLS are critical to estimating the attenuation of extragalactic ionizing sources {e.g. QSOs}. Currently, uncertainties in dN/dz and f{N} are the greatest sources of uncertainty for inferring the shape and intensity of the UV background radiation field. Second, we will estimate the amount of metals in the LLS using the f{N} and ground based observations of metal line transitions. It is possible that a significant fraction of the "missing metals" at z~2 are associated with these highly ionized absorbers. Third, analysis of the LLS lends to investigations of the interface between galaxies {i.e. the damped Lyman alpha systems} and the intergalactic medium {i.e. the Lyman alpha forest}. This survey is ideal for a snapshot observing program, because the on-object integration times are less than 10 minutes, and the targets cover the majority of the northern sky.


A Cepheid Distance to the Coma Cluster

We propose to use the Advanced Camera for Surveys to search for Cepheid variables in two spiral galaxies in the core of the Coma cluster. A direct application of the canonical primary distance indicator at 100 Mpc will measure the far-field Hubble constant free of many of the systematic uncertainties which beset current determinations relying on secondary indicators. Establishing the far-field H_o with Cepheids will provide one of the strongest links in the extragalactic distance scale and will directly calibrate the fiducial fundamental plane of elliptical galaxies in Coma. With ACS/HRC, S/N=5 to 10 or better can be reached for Cepheids with periods of 40d to 70d at mean light in 5 orbits with the F606W filter if H_o=72 km/s/Mpc. Efficient detection and phasing can be done with twelve epochs optimally spaced for periods of 40-70d.

NIC3 10839

The NICMOS Polarimetric Calibration

Recently, it has been shown that NICMOS possesses an instrumental polarization at a level of 1.2%. This completely inhibits the data reduction in a number of previous GO programs, and hampers the ability of the instrument to perform high accuracy polarimetry. In all, 90 orbits of HST data are affected, with potentially many more in Cycle 15. We propose to obtain high signal to noise observations of three polarimetric standards at the cardinal roll angles of the NICMOS polarizers for both NIC1 and NIC2. These observations are designed to fully characterize the instrumental polarization in order for NICMOS to reach its full potential by enabling high accuracy polarimetry of sources with polarizations around 1%. The residual polarization will also be determined as a function of position and spectral energy distribution. Our group will rapidly turn around the required data products and produce reports and software for the accurate representation of the instrumental polarization. These items will be presented to STScI and for dissemination among the wider astronomical community.

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 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.


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


10559 – GSACQ(1,2,1) failed, Search Radius Limit Exceeded on FGS 1 Upon acquisition of signal at 350:06:57:46 vehicle was in gyro control with FGS 1 search radius limit flag set. GSACQ(1,2,1) at 350:06:37:37 failed with search radius limit exceeded. OBAD data prior to GSACQ is unavailable until engineering dump is taken. OBAD map after GSACQ failure showed RSS error of 2.78 arcseconds.

ReACQ(1,2,1) scheduled at 350:09:47:59 failed to RGA hold with search radius limit exceeded. OBAD data prior to ReACQ showed RSS attitude correction of 7.22 arcseconds.

During ReAcq at 09:47:59z we monitored PMT count for FGS 1. The highest value notes was 18.

Subsequent REacqs(1,2,1) scheduled at 350/11:23:52, 350/12:59:46, 350/14:35:41 using the same star id failed to RGA Hold (Gyro Control) due to search radius limit exceeded on FGS-1. Additional 486(x3)ESB “a05” (FGS Coarse Track failed – Search Radius Limit Exceeded) were received.

ReACQ(1,2,1) scheduled at 350:08:12:04 failed to RGA hold with search radius limit exceeded. OBAD data prior to ReACQ showed RSS attitude correction of 5.04 arcseconds. OBAD map after GSACQ failure showed RSS error of 4.42 arcseconds.

10560 – GSACQ(2,3,3) failed, Search Radius Limit Exceeded on FGS 3 Upon Acquisition at 352/08:40:31, GSACQ(2,3,3) scheduled at 352/07:55:17 failed due to Search Radius Limit Exceeded on FGS 3. One 486 status buffer A05 message (FGS Coarse Track failed- search Radius Limit exceeded) was received. OBAD data prior to GSACQ is unavailable until engineering dump. OBAD map after GSACQ failure showed RSS error of 36.03 arcseconds.

10561 – GSACQ(1,3,1) failed, Search Radius Limit Exceeded on FGS 1 GSACQ(1,3,1) scheduled at 352:09:31:06 failed at 09:36:49 due to search radius limit exceeded. OBAD data prior to GSACQ is RSS of 13.08. OBAD map after GSACQ is unavailable until engineering dump is taken. RSS was 12.73 arcseconds


  • 17976-0 – Genslew for proposal 10847 – slot 4
  • 17977-0 – Genslew for proposal 10847 – slot 5
  • 17978-0 – Genslew for proposal 10847 – slot 6
  • 17979-0 – Genslew for proposal 10896 – slot 7
  • 17980-0 – Genslew for proposal 10896 – slot 8
  • 17981-0 – Genslew for proposal 10896 – slot 9


                         SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL
FGS GSacq               22                     19
FGS REacq               23                     18
OBAD with Maneuver  90                     90


SpaceRef staff editor.