Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4441

By SpaceRef Editor
September 6, 2007
Filed under , ,
NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4441

Notice: Due to the conversion of some ACS WFC or HRC observations into WFPC2, or NICMOS observations after the loss of ACS CCD science capability in January, there may be an occasional discrepancy between a proposal’s listed (and correct) instrument usage and the abstract that follows it.


– Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: UT September 05, 2007 (DOY 248)


FGS 11211

An Astrometric Calibration of Population II Distance Indicators In 2002 HST produced a highly precise parallax for RR Lyrae. That measurement resulted in an absolute magnitude, M{V}= 0.61+/-0.11, a useful result, judged by the over ten refereed citations each year since. It is, however, unsatisfactory to have the direct, parallax-based, distance scale of Population II variables based on a single star. We propose, therefore, to obtain the parallaxes of four additional RR Lyrae stars and two Population II Cepheids, or W Vir stars. The Population II Cepheids lie with the RR Lyrae stars on a common K-band Period-Luminosity relation. Using these parallaxes to inform that relationship, we anticipate a zero-point error of 0.04 magnitude. This result should greatly strengthen confidence in the Population II distance scale and increase our understanding of RR Lyrae star and Pop II Cepheid astrophysics.

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.

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.

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 11038

Narrow Band and Ramp Filter Closeout

These observations are to improve calibration of narrow band and ramp filters. We also test for changes in the filter properties during WFPC2’s 14 years on-board HST.

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.

WFPC2 11292

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 essentially 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 Hubble astrometry, the details of the variations will become much clearer.


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

HSTARS: (None)



                        SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL 
FGS GSacq               09                 09 
FGS REacq               05                 05 
OBAD with Maneuver      28                 28 


NICMOS Recovery Flash Report:

NICMOS recovery procedure was successfully completed at 246/15:03 UTC. This procedure enabled NICMOS Buffer Box 2 and transitioned NICMOS up to Operate mode and then back down to SAAOPER. The mode transition was performed in order to refresh the Buffer Box (BB) telemetry. The current temperatures for BB1, 2 and 3 are -1.94, -7.76 and -2.42 respectively.

NICMOS is now configured to intercept science at the next available opportunity. The nominal plan is to intercept science at the beginning of next week’s SMS (Day 253).

SpaceRef staff editor.