Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4590

By SpaceRef Editor
April 17, 2008
Filed under , ,
NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4590


Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: UT April 15, 2008 (DOY 106)


FGS 11210

The Architecture of Exoplanetary Systems

Are all planetary systems coplanar? Concordance cosmogony makes that prediction. It is, however, a prediction of extrasolar planetary system architecture as yet untested by direct observation for main sequence stars other than the Sun. To provide such a test, we propose to carry out FGS astrometric studies on four stars hosting seven companions. Our understanding of the planet formation process will grow as we match not only system architecture, but formed planet mass and true distance from the primary with host star characteristics for a wide variety of host stars and exoplanet masses. We propose that a series of FGS astrometric observations with demonstrated 1 millisecond of arc per-observation precision can establish the degree of coplanarity and component true masses for four extrasolar systems: HD 202206 {brown dwarf+planet}; HD 128311 {planet+planet}, HD 160691 = mu Arae {planet+planet}, and HD 222404AB = gamma Cephei {planet+star}. In each case the companion is identified as such by assuming that the minimum mass is the actual mass. For the last target, a known stellar binary system, the companion orbit is stable only if coplanar with the AB binary orbit.

NIC1 11117

The Search for Atmospheric Water in the Transiting Planet HD189733b

We propose to use the NICMOS camera to search for transit NIR signatures of atmospheric water in HD189733b. While water absorption bands exist in the optical and IR, space-based NIR signatures are uniquely positioned to offer the best chance at detection. Using narrow band photometric filters, we will be able to detect absorption signatures while the planet is in primary transit. A positive detection would be the first proof of water on an extrasolar planet. Furthermore, it would provide invaluable planetary information, constraining the entire chemistry. As a byproduct of the high SNR required for our primary science goal, we will be able to improve on the value of the planetary radius, a result independent of our primary science objective. The accurate radius estimate, together with planet structure models, will allow constraining the planet interior and its relationship with formation models and stellar metallicity.

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.

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 11122

Expanding PNe: Distances and Hydro Models

We propose to obtain repeat narrowband images of a sample of eighteen planetary nebulae {PNe} which have HST/WFPC2 archival data spanning time baselines of a decade. All of these targets have previous high signal-to-noise WFPC2/PC observations and are sufficiently nearby to have readily detectable expansion signatures after a few years. Our main scientific objectives are {a} to determine precise distances to these PNe based on their angular expansions, {b} to test detailed and highly successful hydrodynamic models that predict nebular morphologies and expansions for subsamples of round/elliptical and axisymmetric PNe, and {c} to monitor the proper motions of nebular microstructures in an effort to learn more about their physical nature and formation mechanisms. The proposed observations will result in high-precision distances to a healthy subsample of PNe, and from this their expansion ages, luminosities, CSPN properties, and masses of their ionized cores. With good distances and our hydro models, we will be able to determine fundamental parameters {such as nebular and central star masses, luminosity, age}. The same images allow us to monitor the changing overall ionization state and to search for the surprisingly non-homologous growth patterns to bright elliptical PNe of the same sort seen by Balick & Hajian {2004} in NGC 6543. Non-uniform growth is a sure sign of active pressure imbalances within the nebula that require careful hydro models to understand.


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

HSTARS: (None)



                       SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL

FGS GSacq                06                 06
FGS REacq                08                 08
OBAD with Maneuver       26                 26


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