Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4446

By SpaceRef Editor
September 13, 2007
Filed under , ,
NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4446

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 12, 2007 (DOY 255)


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.

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 DARKs. 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 11322

The Final SHOE; Completing a Rich Cepheid Field in NGC 1309

The Cycle 15 SHOES program {GO 10802} is a large HST program allocated 186 orbits to rebuild the distance ladder using NGC 4258 as a new anchor, a set of 6 recent, ideal type Ia supernovae and Cepheids in their hosts, and NICMOS as a single, homogeneous photometer of long period Cepheids. These tools provide the means to achieve a 4% measurement of the Hubble constant, an invaluable constraint for cosmic concordance fits to dark energy models. Unfortunately, the SHOES NICMOS integrations of long period Cepheids in the last and most recent nearby type Ia supernova host, NGC 1309, are too short because the preliminary estimate of its distance, 30 Mpc, was too low. Our refined estimate now based on the full reduction of both our Cycle 14 and 15 ACS data is 36 Mpc, or 0.4 mag farther. Fortunately, Nature was extremely kind providing a single rich NIC2 field in which we can fully make up for the shortfall due to its abundance of Cepheids. We are expensing our final 4 orbits on this field of a dozen P>30 day Cepheids and seek an additional 5 orbits to reach the depth for measuring the mean F160W magnitudes of the long-period Cepheids with the necessary signal-to-noise ratios of better than 10.

S/C 11163

Accreting Pulsating White Dwarfs in Cataclysmic Variables

Recent ground-based observations have increased the number of known pulsating white dwarfs in close binaries with active mass transfer {cataclysmic variables} from 5 to 11 systems. Our past Cycles 8 and 11 STIS observations of the first 2 known, followed by our Cycle 13 SBC observations of the next 3 discovered, revealed the clear presence of the white dwarf and increased amplitude of the pulsations in the UV compared to the optical. The temperatures derived from the UV spectra show 4 systems are much hotter than non- interacting pulsating white dwarfs. A larger sample is needed to sort out the nature of the instability strip in accreting pulsators i.e. whether effects of composition and rotation due to accretion result in a well-defined instability strip as a function of Teff.

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 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 11218

Snapshot Survey for Planetary Nebulae in Globular Clusters of the Local Group

Planetary nebulae {PNe} in globular clusters {GCs} raise a number of interesting issues related to stellar and galactic evolution. The number of PNe known in Milky Way GCs, 4, is surprisingly low if one assumes that all stars pass through a PN stage. However, it is likely that the remnants of stars now evolving in Galactic GCs leave the AGB so slowly that any ejected nebula dissipates long before the star becomes hot enough to ionize it. Thus there should not be ANY PNe in Milky Way GCs–but there are four! It has been suggested that these PNe are the result of mergers of binary stars within GCs, i.e., that they are descendants of blue stragglers. The frequency of occurrence of PNe in external galaxies poses more questions, because it shows a range of almost an order of magnitude. I propose a Snapshot survey aimed at discovering PNe in the GC systems of Local Group galaxies more distant than the Magellanic Clouds. These clusters, some of which may be much younger than their counterparts in the Milky Way, might contain many more PNe than those of our own galaxy. I will use the standard technique of emission-line and continuum imaging, which easily discloses PNe.

WFPC2 11222

Direct Detection and Mapping of Star Forming Regions in Nearby, Luminous Quasars

We propose to carry out narrow-band emission line imaging observations of 8 quasars at z=0.05-0.15 with the WFPC2 ramp filters and with the NICMOS narrow-band filters. We will obtain images in the [O II], [O III], H-beta, and Pa-alpha emission line bands to carry out a series of diagnostic tests aimed at detecting and mapping out star-forming regions in the quasar host galaxies. This direct detection of star-forming regions will confirm indirect indications for star formation in quasar host galaxies. It will provide a crucial test for models of quasar and galaxy evolution, that predict the co-existence of starbursts and “monsters” and will solve the puzzle of why different indicators of star formation give contradictory results. A secondary science goal is to assess suggested correlations between quasar luminosity and the size of the narrow-line region. WFPC2 11289

SL2S: The Strong Lensing Legacy Survey

Recent systematic surveys of strong galaxy-galaxy lenses {CLASS, SLACS, GOODS, etc.} are producing spectacular results for galaxy masses roughly below a transition mass M~10^13 Mo. The observed lens properties and their evolution up to z~0.2, consistent with numerical simulations, can be described by isothermal elliptical potentials. In contrast, modeling of giant arcs in X-ray luminous clusters {halo masses M >~10^13 Mo} favors NFW mass profiles, suggesting that dark matter halos are not significantly affected by baryon cooling. Until recently, lensing surveys were neither deep nor extended enough to probe the intermediate mass density regime, which is fundamental for understanding the assembly of structures. The CFHT Legacy Survey now covers 125 square degrees, and thus offers a large reservoir of strong lenses probing a large range of mass densities up to z~1. We have extracted a list of 150 strong lenses using the most recent CFHTLS data release via automated procedures. Following our first SNAPSHOT proposal in cycle 15, we propose to continue the Hubble follow-up targeting a larger list of 130 lensing candidates. These are intermediate mass range candidates {between galaxies and clusters} that are selected in the redshift range of 0.2-1 with no a priori X-ray selection. The HST resolution is necessary for confirming the lensing candidates, accurate modeling of the lenses, and probing the total mass concentration in galaxy groups up to z~1 with the largest unbiased sample available to date.


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

HSTARS: (None)



                         SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL 
FGS GSacq                08                 08 
FGS REacq                07                 07 
OBAD with Maneuver       30                 30 


SpaceRef staff editor.