Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4461

By SpaceRef Editor
October 5, 2007
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4461

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 October 03, 2007 (DOY 276)


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.

NIC1/NIC2/NIC3 8795

NICMOS Post-SAA calibration – CR Persistence Part 6

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 i mages. Each observation will need its own CRMAP, as different SAA passages leave different imprints on the NICMOS detectors.

NIC2 10857

Are Organics Common in Outer Planetary Systems?

Mixtures of water ice and organics seem to pervade surfaces in the outer Solar System, from the rings of Saturn to the Kuiper Belt Objects. The early Earth was bombarded by the leftover planetesimals from the formation of the planets, and these must have been rich in both ice and carbon to provide the building blocks of life. Scattered light from debris disks is remarkably similar in albedo {total scattering efficiency} and color {red} to the objects in the outer solar system. Thus, we have a hint that the same photochemical processes that happened close to home also happen around other stars. We propose to study the color of two debris disks in some detail. Scattering of light is the only window available to us to see the composition of debris disks in a spatially resolved manner and to assess their potential for containing planets like ours.

NIC3 11107

Imaging of Local Lyman Break Galaxy Analogs: New Clues to Galaxy Formation in the Early Universe

We have used the ultraviolet all-sky imaging survey currently being conducted by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer {GALEX} to identify for the first time a rare population of low- redshift starbursts with properties remarkably similar to high-redshift Lyman Break Galaxies {LBGs}. These “compact UV luminous galaxies” {UVLGs} resemble LBGs in terms of size, SFR, surface brightness, mass, metallicity, kinematics, dust, and color. The UVLG sample offers the unique opportunity of investigating some very important properties of LBGs that have remained virtually inaccessible at high redshift: their morphology and the mechanism that drives their star formation. Therefore, in Cycle 15 we have imaged 7 UVLGs using ACS in order to 1} characterize their morphology and look for signs of interactions and mergers, and 2} probe their star formation histories over a variety of timescales.  The images show a striking trend of small-scale mergers turning large amounts of gas into vigorous starbursts {a process referred to as dissipational or “wet” merging}. Here, we propose to complete our sample of 31 LBG analogs using the ACS/SBC F150LP {FUV} and WFPC2 F606W {R} filters in order to create a statistical sample to study the mechanism that triggers star formation in UVLGs and its implications for the nature of LBGs. Specifically, we will 1} study the trend between galaxy merging and SFR in UVLGs, 2} artificially redshift the FUV images to z=1-4 and compare morphologies with those in similarly sized samples of LBGs at the same rest-frame wavelengths in e.g. GOODS, UDF, and COSMOS, 3} determine the presence and morphology of significant stellar mass in “pre-burst” stars, and 4} study their immediate environment. Together with our Spitzer {IRAC+MIPS}, GALEX, SDSS and radio data, the HST observations will form a unique union of data that may for the first time shed light on how the earliest major episodes of star formation in high redshift galaxies came about. This proposal was adapted from an ACS HRC+WFC proposal to meet the new Cycle 16 observing constraints, and can be carried out using the ACS/SBC and WFPC2 without compromising our original science goals.

WFPC2 11113

Binaries in the Kuiper Belt: Probes of Solar System Formation and Evolution

The discovery of binaries in the Kuiper Belt and related small body populations is powering a revolutionary step forward in the study of this remote region. Three quarters of the known binaries in the Kuiper Belt have been discovered with HST, most by our snapshot surveys. The statistics derived from this work are beginning to yield surprising and unexpected results. We have found a strong concentration of binaries among low-inclination Classicals, a possible size cutoff to binaries among the Centaurs, an apparent preference for nearly equal mass binaries, and a strong increase in the number of binaries at small separations. We propose to continue this successful program in Cycle 16; we expect to discover at least 13 new binary systems, targeted to subgroups where these discoveries can have the greatest impact.

WFPC2 11128

Time Scales Of Bulge Formation In Nearby Galaxies

Traditionally, bulges are thought to fit well into galaxy formation models of hierarchical merging. However, it is now becoming well established that many bulges formed through internal, secular evolution of the disk rather than through mergers. We call these objects pseudobulges. Much is still unknown about pseudobulges, the most pressing questions being: How, exactly, do they build up their mass? How long does it take? And, how many exist? We are after an answer to these questions. If pseudobulges form and evolve over longer periods than the time between mergers, then a significant population of pseudobulges is hard to explain within current galaxy formation theories. A pseudobulge indicates that a galaxy has most likely not undergone a major merger since the formation of the disk. The ages of pseudobulges give us an estimate for the time scale of this quiescent evolution. We propose to use 24 orbits of HST time to complete UBVIH imaging on a sample of 33 nearby galaxies that we have observed with Spitzer in the mid-IR. These data will be used to measure spatially resolved stellar population parameters {mean stellar age, metallicity, and star formation history}; comparing ages to star formation rates allows us to accurately constrain the time scale of pseudobulge formation. Our sample of bulges includes both pseudo- and classical bulges, and evenly samples barred and unbarred galaxies. Most of our sample is imaged, 13 have complete UBVIH coverage; we merely ask to complete missing observations so that we may construct a uniform sample for studying bulge formation. We also wish to compare the stellar population parameters to a variety of bulge and global galaxy properties including star formation rates, dynamics, internal bulge morphology, structure from bulge-disk decompositions, and gas content. Much of this data set is already or is being assembled. This will allow us to derive methods of pseudobulge identification that can be used to accurately count pseudobulges in large surveys. Aside from our own science goals, we will present this broad set of data to the community. Thus, we waive proprietary periods for all observations.

WFPC2 11202

The Structure of Early-type Galaxies: 0.1-100 Effective Radii

The structure, formation and evolution of early-type galaxies is still largely an open problem in cosmology: how does the Universe evolve from large linear scales dominated by dark matter to the highly non-linear scales of galaxies, where baryons and dark matter both play important, interacting, roles? To understand the complex physical processes involved in their formation scenario, and why they have the tight scaling relations that we observe today {e.g. the Fundamental Plane}, it is critically important not only to understand their stellar structure, but also their dark-matter distribution from the smallest to the largest scales. Over the last three years the SLACS collaboration has developed a toolbox to tackle these issues in a unique and encompassing way by combining new non-parametric strong lensing techniques, stellar dynamics, and most recently weak gravitational lensing, with high-quality Hubble Space Telescope imaging and VLT/Keck spectroscopic data of early-type lens systems. This allows us to break degeneracies that are inherent to each of these techniques separately and probe the mass structure of early-type galaxies from 0.1 to 100 effective radii. The large dynamic range to which lensing is sensitive allows us both to probe the clumpy substructure of these galaxies, as well as their low-density outer haloes. These methods have convincingly been demonstrated, by our team, using smaller pilot-samples of SLACS lens systems with HST data. In this proposal, we request observing time with WFPC2 and NICMOS to observe 53 strong lens systems from SLACS, to obtain complete multi-color imaging for each system. This would bring the total number of SLACS lens systems to 87 with completed HST imaging and effectively doubles the known number of galaxy-scale strong lenses. The deep HST images enable us to fully exploit our new techniques, beat down low-number statistics, and probe the structure and evolution of early-type galaxies, not only with a uniform data-set an order of magnitude larger than what is available now, but also with a fully coherent and self-consistent methodological approach!

WFPC2 11227

The orbital period for an ultraluminous X-ray source in NGC1313

The ultraluminous X-ray sources {ULXs} are extragalactic point sources with luminosities that exceed the Eddington luminosity for conventional stellar-mass black holes by factors of 10 – 100. It has been hotly debated whether the ULXs are just common stellar-mass black hole sources with beamed emission or whether they are sub-Eddington sources that are powered by the long-sought intermediate mass black holes {IMBH}. To firmly decide this question, one must obtain dynamical mass measurements through photometric and spectroscopic monitoring of the secondaries of these system. The crucial first step is to establish the orbital period of a ULX, and arguably the best way to achieve this goal is by monitoring its ellipsoidal light curve.  The extreme ULX NGC1313 X-2 provides an outstanding target for an orbital period determination because its relatively bright optical counterpart {V = 23.5} showed a 15% variation between two HST observations separated by three months. This level of variability is consistent with that expected for a tidally distorted secondary star. Here we propose a set of 20 imaging observations with HST/WFPC2 to define the orbital period. This would be the first photometric measurement of the orbital period of a ULX binary. Subsequently, we will propose to obtain spectroscopic observations to obtain its radial velocity amplitude and thereby a dynamical estimate of its mass.


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 


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