Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4586

By SpaceRef Editor
April 11, 2008
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4586


Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: UT April 09, 2008 (DOY 100)


NIC1/NIC2/NIC3 11318

NICMOS Cycle 16 Multiaccum Darks

The purpose of this proposal is to monitor the dark current, read noise, and shading profile for all three NICMOS detectors throughout the duration of Cycle 16. This proposal is a slightly modified version of proposal 10380 of cycle 13 and 9993 of cycle12 and is the same as Cycle 15. Covers the period from April 08 to November 08 (inclusive).

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

NIC2 11150

Beta Pic Polarimetry with NICMOS

Debris disk stars host transient dust grains that comprise a collisional cascade with sizes ranging from planetesimals to the sub-micron. In addition to the gravity of the host star and any planets present, these grains are subject to size-dependent non-gravitational forces, e.g., corpuscular drag and radiation pressure. When a steep spectrum of grain sizes prevails, such as the Dohnanyi distribution, scattered light images preferentially trace grains with dimensionless size parameter of order unity. Thus images in scattered starlight provide unique windows on the balance of forces acting on grains at a specific size. Therefore, in an A star system such as beta Pic, the near-IR is dominated by grains close to the blow out size and therefore NICMOS traces dust on hyperbolic orbits.

Scattering is fundamentally polarization sensitive, and measurements that record intensity literally see only half the picture. If linear polarization is measured then the elements of the complex scattering matrix can be reconstructed. These matrix elements provide fundamental constraints on the size, composition and structure of the scatterers. Notably, polarimetry can be used to break the degeneracy between scattering asymmetry, g, and the radial dust gradient, which are otherwise covariant in an edge-on disk. Thus, we can use polarimetry to localize the parent bodies in the beta Pic disk.

In beta Pic, dust is thought to originate mainly from the sublimation of cometary bodies near periastron. The irradiation of cometary material leads to sublimation and photodissociation of ices forming porous grains consisting of a matrix of refractory material. Such grains have a characteristic scattering signature in polarized light that can be distinguished from compact grains that arise from collisional erosion of asteroidal material.

NIC2/NIC1/NIC3 11159

The True Galactic Bulge Luminosity Function

We propose to obtain second epoch imaging of the deep Galactic bulge field observed using NICMOS by Zoccali et al. (2000). The bulge luminosity and mass function suffered from 30-50% contamination by foreground disk stars, which was impossible to correct for in the original study. Revisiting the field after 9 years, we propose to segregate the foreground disk stars because they have large transverse velocities, thus revealing the luminosity function of Galactic bulge low mass stars to near the hydrogen burning limit. The slope of the mass function has implications for galaxy formation and for understanding the nature of microlensing in the Galactic bulge.

NIC3 11120

A Paschen-Alpha Study of Massive Stars and the ISM in the Galactic Center

The Galactic center (GC) is a unique site for a detailed study of a multitude of complex astrophysical phenomena, which may be common to nuclear regions of many galaxies. Observable at resolutions unapproachable in other galaxies, the GC provides an unparalleled opportunity to improve our understanding of the interrelationships of massive stars, young stellar clusters, warm and hot ionized gases, molecular clouds, large scale magnetic fields, and black holes. We propose the first large-scale hydrogen Paschen alpha line survey of the GC using NICMOS on the Hubble Space Telescope. This survey will lead to a high resolution and high sensitivity map of the Paschen alpha line emission in addition to a map of foreground extinction, made by comparing Paschen alpha to radio emission. This survey of the inner 75 pc of the Galaxy will provide an unprecedented and complete search for sites of massive star formation. In particular, we will be able to (1) uncover the distribution of young massive stars in this region, (2) locate the surfaces of adjacent molecular clouds, (3) determine important physical parameters of the ionized gas, (4) identify compact and ultra-compact HII regions throughout the GC. When combined with existing Chandra and Spitzer surveys as well as a wealth of other multi-wavelength observations, the results will allow us to address such questions as where and how massive stars form, how stellar clusters are disrupted, how massive stars shape and heat the surrounding medium, and how various phases of this medium are interspersed.

NIC3 11149

Characterizing the Stellar Populations in Lyman-Alpha Emitters and Lyman Break Galaxies at 5.7

The epoch of reionization marks a major phase transition of the Universe, during which the intergalactic space became transparent to UV photons. Determining when this occurred and the physical processes involved represents the latest frontier in observational cosmology. Over the last few years, searches have intensified to identify the population of high-redshift (z>6) galaxies that might be responsible for this process, but the progress is hampered partly by the difficulty of obtaining physical information (stellar mass, age, star formation rate/history) for individual sources. This is because the number of z>6 galaxies that have both secure spectroscopic redshifts and high-quality infrared photometry (especially with Spitzer/IRAC) is still fairly small. Considering that only several photometric points are available per source, and that many model SEDs are highly degenerate, it is crucial to obtain as many observational constraints as possible for each source to ensure the validity of SED modeling. To better understand the physical properties of high-redshift galaxies, we propose here to conduct HST/NICMOS (72 orbits) and Spitzer/IRAC (102 hours) imaging of spectroscopically confirmed, bright (z<26 mag (AB)) Ly-alpha emitters (LAEs) and Lyman-break galaxies (LBGs) at 5.76 as suggested recently? (2) Is Ly-alpha emission systematically suppressed at z>6 with respect to continuum emission? (i.e., are we reaching the epoch of incomplete reionization?), and (3) Do we see any sign of abnormally young stellar population in any of the z>6 galaxies?

WFPC2 11099

A “silver bullet” for the sources of reionization

Recent discoveries of z>6 galaxies have given us the first glimpse of the Universe shortly after the era of reionization. The questions arose whether these first galaxies can be made responsible for the reionization process, and how long did it last. Neither observations nor theory provide a clean answer. In particular observations give results that are barely mutually consistent and need to be further tested. Observing high redshift (z>7) sources is in general difficult, mostly due to the high luminosity distance to these objects, and partly due to the lower expected stellar masses compared to objects at moderate redshifts.

We propose to use one of the most massive, merging cluster 1E0657-56 (z=0.295) as a cosmic telescopes to efficiently probe the high-redshift universe. The gravitational potential well of this cluster provides several magnitudes of magnification, enabling study of intrinsically lower luminosity galaxies.As we discuss in the proposal, due to its highly elongated mass distribution and ideal redshift the bullet cluster is a prime candidate for this study. We propose deep NICMOS and WFPC2 observations; with much reduced observing time compared to e.g. NICMOS UDF we expect an order of magnitude more (~5 candidates) z>7 objects. They will also likely be multiply imaged, and since the geometry of images depends upon the redshift, we will be able to confirm their nature, thereby not requiring (often prohibitive at these magnitudes) spectroscopic follow-up. This will enable us to count high-redshift sources and constrain their luminosity function; a task made possible with the help of gravitational lensing even in the pre-JWST era.

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 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                05                 05
FGS REacq                09                 09
OBAD with Maneuver       28                 28


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