Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4618

By SpaceRef Editor
May 28, 2008
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NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4618


Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am May 23 – 5am May 27, 2008 (DOY 144/0900z-148/0900z)


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.

NIC1/NIC2/NIC3 11330

NICMOS Cycle 16 Extended Dark

This takes a series of Darks in parallel to other instruments.

NIC2 11237

The origin of the break in the AGN luminosity function

We propose to use NICMOS imaging to measure rest-frame optical luminosities and morphological properties of a complete sample of faint AGN host galaxies at redshifts z ~ 1.4. The targets are drawn from the VLT-VIMOS Deep Survey, and they constitute a sample of the lowest luminosity type 1 AGN known at z > 1. The spectroscopically estimated black hole masses are up to an order of magnitude higher than expected given their nuclear luminosities, implying highly sub-Eddington accretion rates. This exactly matches the prediction made by recent theoretical models of AGN evolution, according to which the faint end of the AGN luminosity function is populated mainly by big black holes that have already exhausted a good part of their fuel. In this proposal we want to test further predictions of that hypothesis, by focussing on the host galaxy properties of our low-luminosity, low- accretion AGN. If the local ratio between black hole and bulge masses holds at least approximately at these redshifts, one expects most of these low-luminosity AGN to reside in fairly big ellipticals with stellar masses around and above 10^11 solar masses (in contrast to the Seyfert phenomenon in the local universe). With NICMOS imaging we will find out whether that is true, implying also a sensitive test for the validity of the M_BH/M_bulge relation at z ~ 1.4.

WFPC2 11235

HST NICMOS Survey of the Nuclear Regions of Luminous Infrared Galaxies in the Local Universe

At luminosities above 10^11.4 L_sun, the space density of far-infrared selected galaxies exceeds that of optically selected galaxies. These `luminous infrared galaxies’ {LIRGs} are primarily interacting or merging disk galaxies undergoing enhanced star formation and Active Galactic Nuclei {AGN} activity, possibly triggered as the objects transform into massive S0 and elliptical merger remnants. We propose NICMOS NIC2 imaging of the nuclear regions of a complete sample of 88 L_IR > 10^11.4 L_sun luminous infrared galaxies in the IRAS Revised Bright Galaxy Sample {RBGS: i.e., 60 micron flux density > 5.24 Jy}. This sample is ideal not only in its completeness and sample size, but also in the proximity and brightness of the galaxies. The superb sensitivity and resolution of NICMOS NIC2 on HST enables a unique opportunity to study the detailed structure of the nuclear regions, where dust obscuration may mask star clusters, AGN and additional nuclei from optical view, with a resolution significantly higher than possible with Spitzer IRAC. This survey thus provides a crucial component to our study of the dynamics and evolution of IR galaxies presently underway with Wide-Field, HST ACS/WFC and Spitzer IRAC observations of these 88 galaxies. Imaging will be done with the F160W filter {H-band} to examine as a function of both luminosity and merger stage {i} the luminosity and distribution of embedded star clusters, {ii} the presence of optically obscured AGN and nuclei, {iii} the correlation between the distribution of 1.6 micron emission and the mid- IR emission as detected by Spitzer IRAC, {iv} the evidence of bars or bridges that may funnel fuel into the nuclear region, and {v} the ages of star clusters for which photometry is available via ACS/WFC observations. The NICMOS data, combined with the HST ACS, Spitzer, and GALEX observations of this sample, will result in the most comprehensive study of merging and interacting galaxies to date.

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.

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.

NIC3 11195

Morphologies of the Most Extreme High-Redshift Mid-IR-luminous Galaxies II: The `Bump’ Sources

The formative phase of some of the most massive galaxies may be extremely luminous, characterized by intense star- and AGN-formation. Till now, few such galaxies have been unambiguously identified at high redshift, and thus far we have been restricted to studying the low-redshift ultraluminous infrared galaxies as possible analogs. We have recently discovered a sample of objects which may indeed represent this early phase in galaxy formation, and are undertaking an extensive multiwavelength study of this population. These objects are optically extremely faint {R>26} but nevertheless bright at mid-infrared wavelengths {F[24um] > 0.5 mJy}. Mid-infrared spectroscopy with Spitzer/IRS reveals that they have redshifts z~2, implying luminosities ~1E13 Lsun. Their mid-IR SEDs fall into two broad, perhaps overlapping, categories. Sources with brighter F[24um] exhibit power-law SEDs and SiO absorption features in their mid-IR spectra characteristic of AGN, whereas those with fainter F[24um] show a “bump” characteristic of the redshifted 1.6um peak from a stellar population, and PAH emission characteristic of starformation. We have begun obtaining HST images of the brighter sources in Cycle 15 to obtain identifications and determine kpc-scale morphologies for these galaxies. Here, we aim to target the second class {the “bump” sources} with the goal of determining if these constitute morphologically different objects, or simply a “low-AGN” state of the brighter class. The proposed observations will help us determine whether these objects are merging systems, massive obscured starbursts {with obscuration on kpc scales!} or very reddened {locally obscured} AGN hosted by intrinsically low-luminosity galaxies.

WFPC2 11185

Search for H-poor/He-rich Inclusions and a Solution to the Abundance, Temperature Problems

Our recent abundance survey of a large sample of Galactic planetary nebulae (PNe) has led to the discovery of a group of super-metal-rich nebulae whose spectra are characterized by prominent optical recombination lines (ORLs) from C, N, O, & Ne ions and a large Balmer discontinuity jump. The heavy element abundances derived from ORLs for several PNe are more than an order of magnitude higher than those derived from the traditional method based on collisionally excited lines (CELs), while the Balmer jump yields electron temperatures (Te) significantly lower than values derived from the [O III] 5007/4363 CEL line ratio. A proposition that aspires to explain both the nebular abundance and Te problems is one according to which these nebulae contain (at least) two distinct emission regions – one of “normal” Te (~ 10000 K) and chemical composition (~solar) and another of very low Te that is H- deficient, thus having high helium and metal abundances relative to hydrogen. The latter component emits strong He and heavy element ORLs but essentially no CELs. The consistent picture that emerges from fitting a 2-component photoionization model to the spectroscopic data is that the H-poor component is in high-density inclusions, which provide only a minor fraction of the total nebular mass. We propose to directly detect these inclusions in the planetary nebula M 1-42 using WFPC2 (PC) to make a high spatial resolution image in the He I 5876 A ORL and ratio it to Halpha. With NICMOS (NIC1), we plan to observe the He I 10830 A line, which is substantially collisionally excited, along with Palpha 18760 A. The ratio image of He I 10830 to Palpha is expected to be less likely to show the inclusions, thus serving as an important control to the optical imaging. M 1-42 is one of the most extreme cases of the abundance and Te problem; it is reasonably bright and compact. This program has the potential to resolve a serious challenge to our current understanding of nebular astrophysics.

NIC2 11164

Molecular Hydrogen Disks Around T Tauri Stars

We propose to measure the properties of planetary system-sized disks around Sun- like, pre-main sequence stars by imaging the inner parts of these disks for the first time in gaseous emission from their most dominant constituent, molecular hydrogen gas. Specifically, we will use the F212N filter and NICMOS to determine the spatial distribution of ro-vibrational H2 emission from protoplanetary disks around selected classical and weak-lined T Tauri stars. The target stars are among those detected by members of this team through high resolution, ground-based infrared spectroscopy. The spectra reveal H2 emission at the rest velocities of the stars and at positions spatially coincident with the stars at the spatial resolution of the spectroscopic data. This imaging experiment, which is impossible to do using ground- based facilities, is possible using the NICMOS camera aboard the HST because the point spread function of this system is extremely stable and can be measured to a very high accuracy. This experiment is an important test of the interpretation that the 2.122 micron H2 line emission seen toward T Tauri stars is produced at distances of 10 to 30 AU from the stars, the region in which giant planets are expected to form around these stars. These observations will contribute toward developing a better understanding of the process, likelihood, and timescale for the formation of planets around Sun-like stars.

WFPC2 11156

Monitoring Active Atmospheres on Uranus and Neptune

We propose Snapshot observations of Uranus and Neptune to monitor changes in their atmospheres on time scales of weeks and months. Uranus equinox is only months away, in December 2007. Hubble Space Telescope observations during the past several years {Hammel et al. 2005, Icarus 175, 284 and references therein} have revealed strongly wavelength- dependent latitudinal structure, the presence of numerous visible-wavelength cloud features in the northern hemisphere, at least one very long-lived discrete cloud in the southern hemisphere, and in 2006 the first dark spot ever seen on Uranus. Long-term ground-based observations {Lockwood and Jerzekiewicz, 2006, Icarus 180, 442; Hammel and Lockwood 2007, Icarus 186, 291} reveal seasonal brightness changes whose origins are not well understood. Recent near-IR images of Neptune obtained using adaptive optics on the Keck Telescope, together with HST observations {Sromovsky et al. 2003, Icarus 163, 256 and references therein} which include previous Snapshot programs {GO 8634, 10170, 10534} show a general increase in activity at south temperate latitudes until 2004, when Neptune returned to a rather Voyager-like appearance. Further Snapshot observations of these two dynamic planets will elucidate the nature of long-term changes in their zonal atmospheric bands and clarify the processes of formation, evolution, and dissipation of discrete albedo features.

ACS/SBC 11151

Evaluating the Role of Photoevaporation of Protoplanetary Disk Dispersal

Emission produced by accretion onto the central star leads to photoevaporation, which may play a fundamental role in disk dispersal. Models of disk photoevaporation by the central star are challenged by two potential problems: the emission produced by accretion will be substantially weaker for low-mass stars, and photoevaporation must continue as accretion slows. Existing FUV spectra of CTTSs are biased to solar-mass stars with high accretion rates, and are therefore insufficient to address these problems. We propose use HST/ACS SBC PR130L to obtain FUV spectra of WTTSs and of CTTSs at low masses and mass accretion rates to provide crucial data to evaluate photoevaporation models. We will estimate the FUV and EUV luminosities of low-mass CTTSs with small mass accretion rates, CTTSs with transition disks and slowed accretion, and of magnetically-active WTTSs.

WFPC2 11130

AGNs with Intermediate-mass Black Holes: Testing the Black Hole-Bulge Paradigm, Part II

The recent progress in the study of central black holes in galactic nuclei has led to a general consensus that supermassive {10^6-10^9 solar mass} black holes are closely connected with the formation and evolutionary history of large galaxies, especially their bulge component. Two outstanding issues, however, remain unresolved. Can central black holes form in the absence of a bulge? And does the mass function of central black holes extend below 10^6 solar masses? Intermediate-mass black holes {<10^6 solar masses}, if they exist, may offer important clues to the nature of the seeds of supermassive black holes. Using the SDSS, our group has successfully uncovered a new population of AGNs with intermediate-mass black holes that reside in low-luminosity galaxies. However, very little is known about the detailed morphologies or structural parameters of the host galaxies themselves, including the crucial question of whether they have bulges or not. Surprisingly, the majority of the targets of our Cycle 14 pilot program have structural properties similar to dwarf elliptical galaxies. The statistics from this initial study, however, are really too sparse to reach definitive conclusions on this important new class of black holes. We wish to extend this study to a larger sample, by using the Snapshot mode to obtain WFPC2 F814W images from a parent sample of 175 AGNs with intermediate- mass black holes selected from our final SDSS search. We are particularly keen to determine whether the hosts contain bulges, and if so, how the fundamental plane properties of the host depend on the mass of their central black holes. We will also investigate the environment of this unique class of AGNs.

WFPC2 11124

The Origin of QSO Absorption Lines from QSOs

We propose using WFPC2 to image the fields of 10 redshift z ~ 0.7 foreground {FG} QSOs which lie within ~29-151 kpc of the sightlines to high-z background {BG} QSOs. A surprisingly high fraction of the BG QSO spectra show strong MgII {2796,2803} absorption lines at precisely the same redshifts as the FG QSOs. The high resolution capabilities of WFPC2 are needed to understand the origin of these absorption systems, in two ways. First, we wish to explore the FG QSO environment as close as possible to the position of the BG QSO, to search for interloping group or cluster galaxies which might be responsible for the absorption, or irregularly shaped post-merger debris between the FG and BG QSO which may indicate the presence of large amount of disrupted gas along a sightline. Similarly, high resolution images are needed to search for signs of tidal interactions between any galaxies which might be found close to the FG QSO. Such features might provide evidence of young merging events causing the start of QSO duty cycles and producing outflows from the central AGN. Such winds may be responsible for the observed absorption lines. Second, we seek to measure the intrinsic parameters of the FG QSO host galaxy, such as luminosity and morphology, to correlate with the properties of the MgII absorption lines. We wish to observe each field through the F814W filter, close to the rest- frame B-band of the FG QSO. These blue data can reveal enhanced star formation regions close to the nucleus of the host galaxy, which may be indicative of galaxy mergers with the FG QSO host. The FG QSO environment offers quite a different set of phenomena which might be responsible for MgII absorption, providing an important comparison to studies of MgII absorption from regular field galaxies.

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.

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.

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.

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 11070

WFPC2 CYCLE 15 Standard Darks – part II

This dark calibration program obtains dark frames every week in order to provide data for the ongoing calibration of the CCD dark current rate, and to monitor and characterize the evolution of hot pixels. Over an extended period these data will also provide a monitor of radiation damage to the CCDs.

WFPC2 11039

Polarizers Closeout

Observations of standard stars and a highly polarized reflection nebula are made as a final calibration for the WFPC2 polarizers. VISFLATS are also obtained.

ACS/WFC 11024


This calibration proposal is the Cycle 15 routine internal monitor for WFPC2, to be run weekly to monitor the health of the cameras. A variety of internal exposures are obtained in order to provide a monitor of the integrity of the CCD camera electronics in both bays {both gain 7 and gain 15 — to test stability of gains and bias levels}, a test for quantum efficiency in the CCDs, and a monitor for possible buildup of contaminants on the CCD windows. These also provide raw data for generating annual super-bias reference files for the calibration pipeline.


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


#11315 REAcq (2,3,2) failed to RGA Hold

REAcq 2,3,2 scheduled from 13:11:23-13:18:43z failed to RGA Hold Gyro Control due to a QSTOP flag on FGS 2. Mnemonic F2SSCEA showed OOL Red Low with a value of -10.24. Initial GSAcq 2,3,2 scheduled from 11:35:30 to 11:42:50 was successful. Initial analysis indicates a possible CT-FL transition problem. FGS2 PMT Counts showed a maximum = 279, minimum = 0, average =131.41.

OBAD #1: V1 1549.50, V2 2274.51, V3 -1017.23, RSS 2934.13.

OBAD #2: V1 -1.96, V2 0.02, V3 7.37, RSS 7.62.

OBAD MAP: V1 -4.08, V2 -4.46, V3 -0.54, RSS 6.07.



                          SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL
FGS GSacq                   37              37
FGS REacq                   15              14
OBAD with Maneuver         110             110


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