Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4396

By SpaceRef Editor
July 3, 2007
Filed under , ,
NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4396

Notice: For the foreseeable future, the daily reports may contain apparent discrepancies between some proposal descriptions and the listed instrument usage. This is due to the conversion of previously approved ACS WFC or HRC observations into WFPC2, or NICMOS observations subsequent to the loss of ACS CCD science capability in late January.


– Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: UT June 02, 2007 (DOY 183)


WFPC2 11024


This calibration proposal is the Cycle 15 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.

FGS 11212

Filling the Period Gap for Massive Binaries

The current census of binaries among the massive O-type stars is seriously incomplete for systems in the period range from years to millennia because the radial velocity variations are too small and the angular separations too close for easy detection. Here we propose to discover binaries in this observational gap through a Faint Guidance Sensor SNAP survey of relatively bright targets listed in the Galactic O Star Catalog. Our primary goal is to determine the binary frequency among those in the cluster/association, field, and runaway groups. The results will help us assess the role of binaries in massive star formation and in the processes that lead to the ejection of massive stars from their natal clusters. The program will also lead to the identification of new, close binaries that will be targets of long term spectroscopic and high angular resolution observations to determine their masses and distances. The results will also be important for the interpretation of the spectra of suspected and newly identified binary and multiple systems.

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 11101

The Relevance of Mergers for Fueling AGNs: Answers from QSO Host Galaxies

The majority of QSOs are known to reside in centers of galaxies that look like ellipticals. Numerical simulations have shown that remnants of galaxy mergers often closely resemble elliptical galaxies. However, it is still strongly debated whether the majority of QSO host galaxies are indeed the result of relatively recent mergers or whether they are completely analogous to inactive ellipticals to which nothing interesting has happened recently. To address this question, we recently obtained deep HST ACS images for five QSO host galaxies that were classified morphologically as ellipticals {GO-10421}. This pilot study revealed striking signs of tidal interactions such as ripples, tidal tails, and warped disks that were not detected in previous studies. Our observations show that at least some “elliptical” QSO host galaxies are the products of relatively recent merger events rather than old galaxies formed at high redshift. However, the question remains whether the host galaxies of classical QSOs are truly distinct from inactive ellipticals and whether there is a connection between the merger events we detect and the current nuclear activity. We must therefore place our results into a larger statistical context. We are currently conducting an HST archival study of inactive elliptical galaxies {AR-10941} to form a control sample. We now propose to obtain deep HST/WFPC2 images of 13 QSOs whose host galaxies are classified as normal ellipticals. Comparing the results for both samples will help us determine whether classical QSOs reside in normal elliptical galaxies or not. Our recent pilot study of five QSOs indicates that we can expect exciting results and deep insights into the host galaxy morphology also for this larger sample of QSOs. A statistically meaningful sample will help us determine the true fraction of QSO hosts that suffered strong tidal interactions and thus, whether a merger is indeed a requirement to trigger nuclear activity in the most luminous AGNs. In addition to our primary science observations with WFPC2, we will obtain NICMOS3 parallel observations with the overall goal to select and characterize galaxy populations at high redshifts. The imaging will be among the deepest NICMOS images: These NICMOS images are expected to go to a limit a little over 1 magnitude brighter than HUDF-NICMOS data, but over 13 widely separated fields, with a total area about 1.5 times larger than HUDF-NICMOS. This separation means that the survey will tend to average out effects of cosmic variance. The NICMOS3 images will have sufficient resolution for an initial characterization of galaxy morphologies, which is currently one of the most active and promising areas in approaching the problem of the formation of the first massive galaxies. The depth and area coverage of our proposed NICMOS observations will also allow a careful study of the mass function of galaxies at these redshifts. This provides a large and unbiased sample, selected in terms of stellar mass and unaffected by cosmic variance, to study the on-going star formation activity as a function of mass {i.e. integrated star formation} at this very important epoch.

NIC3 11062

NICMOS non-linearity tests

This program incorporates a number of tests to analyze the count rate dependent non- linearity seen in NICMOS spectro-photometric observations. We will observe a field with stars of a range in luminosity in NGC3603 with NICMOS in NIC1: F090M, F110W, F140W, F160W NIC2: F110W, F160W, F187W, F205W, and F222M NIC3: F110W, F150W, F160W, F175W, and F222M. We will repeat the observations with flatfield lamp on, creating artificially high count-rates, allowing tests of NICMOS linearity as function of count rate. We first take exposures with the lamp off, then exposures with the lamp on, and repeat at the end with lamp off. Finally, we continue with taking darks during occultation. We will furthermore observe spectro-photometric standard P041C using the G096, G141, and G206 grisms in NIC3, and repeat the lamp off/on/off test to artificially create a high background.

WFPC2 11023

WFPC2 CYCLE 15 Standard Darks – part 1

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.

WFPC2 11029

WFPC2 CYCLE 15 Intflat Linearity Check and Filter Rotation Anomaly Monitor

Intflat observations will be taken to provide a linearity check: the linearity test consists of a series of intflats in F555W, in each gain and each shutter. A combination of intflats, visflats, and earthflats will be used to check the repeatability of filter wheel motions. {Intflat sequences tied to decons, visits 1-18 in prop 10363, have been moved to the cycle 15 decon proposal xxxx for easier scheduling.} Note: long-exposure WFPC2 intflats must be scheduled during ACS anneals to prevent stray light from the WFPC2 lamps from contaminating long ACS external exposures.

WFPC2 11175

UV Imaging to Determine the Location of Residual Star Formation in Galaxies Recently Arrived on the Red Sequence

We have identified a sample of low-redshift {z = 0.04 – 0.10} galaxies that are candidates for recent arrival on the red sequence. They have red optical colors indicative of old stellar populations, but blue UV-optical colors that could indicate the presence of a small quantity of continuing or very recent star formation. However, their spectra lack the emission lines that characterize star-forming galaxies. We propose to use ACS/SBC to obtain high- resolution imaging of the UV flux in these galaxies, in order to determine the spatial distribution of the last episode of star formation. WFPC2 imaging will provide B, V, and I photometry to measure the main stellar light distribution of the galaxy for comparison with the UV imaging, as well as to measure color gradients and the distribution of interstellar dust. This detailed morphological information will allow us to investigate the hypothesis that these galaxies have recently stopped forming stars and to compare the observed distribution of the last star formation with predictions for several different mechanisms that may quench star formation in galaxies.

WFPC2 11178

Probing Solar System History with Orbits, Masses, and Colors of Transneptunian Binaries

The recent discovery of numerous transneptunian binaries {TNBs} opens a window into dynamical conditions in the protoplanetary disk where they formed as well as the history of subsequent events which sculpted the outer Solar System and emplaced them onto their present day heliocentric orbits. To date, at least 47 TNBs have been discovered, but only about a dozen have had their mutual orbits and separate colors determined, frustrating their use to investigate numerous important scientific questions. The current shortage of data especially cripples scientific investigations requiring statistical comparisons among the ensemble characteristics. We propose to obtain sufficient astrometry and photometry of 23 TNBs to compute their mutual orbits and system masses and to determine separate primary and secondary colors, roughly tripling the sample for which this information is known, as well as extending it to include systems of two near-equal size bodies. To make the most efficient possible use of HST, we will use a Monte Carlo technique to optimally schedule our observations.

WFPC2 11201

Systemic and Internal motions of the Magellanic Clouds: Third Epoch Images

In Cycles 11 and 13 we obtained two epochs of ACS/HRC data for fields in the Magellanic Clouds centered on background quasars. We used these data to determine the proper motions of the LMC and SMC to better than 5% and 15% respectively. These are by far the best determinations of the proper motions of these two galaxies. The results have a number of unexpected implications for the Milky Way-LMC-SMC system. The implied three-dimensional velocities are larger than previously believed, and are not much less than the escape velocity in a standard 10^12 solar mass Milky Way dark halo. Orbit calculations suggest the Clouds may not be bound to the Milky Way or may just be on their first passage, both of which would be unexpected in view of traditional interpretations of the Magellanic Stream. Alternatively, the Milky Way dark halo may be a factor of two more massive than previously believed, which would be surprising in view of other observational constraints. Also, the relative velocity between the LMC and SMC is larger than expected, leaving open the possibility that the Clouds may not be bound to each other. To further verify and refine our results we now request an epoch of WFPC2/PC data for the fields centered on 40 quasars that have at least one epoch of ACS imaging. We request execution in snapshot mode, as in our previous programs, to ensure the most efficient use of HST resources. A third epoch of data of these fields will provide crucial information to verify that there are no residual systematic effects in our previous measurements. More importantly, it will increase the time baseline from 2 to 5 yrs and will increase the number of fields with at least two epochs of data. This will reduce our uncertainties correspondingly, so that we can better address whether the Clouds are indeed bound to each other and to the Milky Way. It will also allow us to constrain the internal motions of various populations within the Clouds, and will allow us to determine a distance to the LMC using rotational parallax.


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

HSTARS: (None)


                                 SCHEDULED       SUCCESSFUL 
FGS GSacq                       6                        6 
FGS REacq                       7                        7 
OBAD with Maneuver              26                      26 



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