Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4792

By SpaceRef Editor
February 17, 2009
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Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am February 13 – 5am February 17, 2009 (DOY 044/1000z-048/1000z)


WFPC2 11986

Completing HST’s Local Volume Legacy

Nearby galaxies offer one of the few laboratories within which stellar populations can be tied to multi-wavelength observations. They are thus essential for calibrating and interpreting key astrophysical observables, such as broad-band luminosities, durations and energy input from starbursts, and timescales of UV, H-alpha, and FIR emission. The study of stellar populations in nearby galaxies requires high-resolution observations with HST, but HST’s legacy for this limited set of galaxies remains incomplete.

As a first attempt to establish this legacy, The ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury (ANGST) began observations in late 2006. ANGST was designed to carry out a uniform multi-color survey of a volume-limited sample of ~70 nearby galaxies that could be used for systematic studies of resolved stellar populations. The resulting data provide nuanced constraints on the processes which govern star formation and galaxy evolution, for a well-defined population of galaxies. All photometry for the survey has been publicly released.

However, the failure of ACS 4.5 months after ANGST began taking data led to a drastic reduction in the planned survey. The loss is two-fold. First, the goals of completeness and uniformity were greatly compromised, impacting global comparison studies. Second, the variety of observed star formation histories was reduced. Given that we have never found two galaxies with identical star formation histories, and fully sampling the population allows us to catch those few systems whose star formation rates and metallicities place the strongest constraints on key astrophysical processes.

Here we propose WFPC2 observations of all remaining galaxies within the Local Volume (D<3.5Mpc) for which current HST observations are insufficient for meaningful stellar population studies. We will use these observations for research on the star formation histories of individual galaxies and the Local Volume, detailed calibrations of star formation rate indicators, and the durations of starbursts. We will also make them publicly available through the ANGST archive to support future research. The proposed observations will finally complete a lasting legacy of HST

WFPC2 11967

WFPC2 Imaging of the Lockman Hole

In order to understand galaxy evolution and constrain theoretical models, we require both multiwavelength photometry (to robustly determine physical parameters such as star formation rates and stellar masses) and detailed morphological information. Galaxy morphology encodes crucial information about galaxy formation history and the physical processes that trigger star formation and AGN activity, and high-resolution imaging for large samples of galaxies is currently only obtainable with HST. The Lockman Hole has been the target of extensive multi-wavelength observations from the X-ray to the radio, and will be the target of the deepest wide-area blankfield thermal IR observations with Herschel, but currently lacks comprehensive HST imaging. We propose to obtain WFPC2 imaging of ~500 arcmin2 of the central region of the Lockman Hole in F606W and F814W, to a depth of V606~26.8 and I814~26. This imaging is crucial in order to characterize the sources detected at other wavelengths.

WFPC2 11944 – FGS 11943

Binaries at the Extremes of the H-R Diagram

We propose to use HST/Fine Guidance Sensor 1r to survey for binaries among some of the most massive, least massive, and oldest stars in our part of the Galaxy. FGS allows us to spatially resolve binary systems that are too faint to observe using ground-based, speckle or optical long baseline interferometry, and too close to resolve with AO. We propose a SNAP-style program of single orbit FGS TRANS mode observations of very massive stars in the cluster NGC 3603, luminous blue variables, nearby low mass main sequence stars, cool subdwarf stars, and white dwarfs. These observations will help us to (1) identify systems suitable for follow up studies for mass determination, (2) study the role of binaries in stellar birth and in advanced evolutionary states, (3) explore the fundamental properties of stars near the main sequence-brown dwarf boundary, (4) understand the role of binaries for X-ray bright systems, (5) find binaries among ancient and nearby subdwarf stars, and (6) help calibrate the white dwarf mass – radius relation.

WFPC2 11797

Supplemental WFPC2 CYCLE 16 Intflat Linearity Check and Filter Rotation Anomaly Monitor

Supplemental observations to 11029, to cover period from Aug 08 to SM4. Intflat observations will be taken to provide a linearity check: the linearity test consists of a series of intflats in F555W, in each gain and each shutter. A combination of intflats, visflats, and earthflats will be used to check the repeatability of filter wheel motions. (Intflat sequences tied to decons, visits 1-18 in prop 10363, have been moved to the cycle 15 decon proposal 11022 for easier scheduling.)

Note: long-exposure WFPC2 intflats must be scheduled during ACS anneals to prevent stray light from the WFPC2 lamps from contaminating long ACS external exposures.

Note: These are supplemental observations to cover June to SM4 (Oct 8 ’08) + 6 months.

WFPC2 11796

WFPC2 Cycle 16 Decontaminations and Associated Observations

This proposal is for the WFPC2 decons. Also included are instrument monitors tied to decons: photometric stability check, focus monitor, pre- and post-decon internals (bias, intflats, kspots, & darks), UV throughput check, VISFLAT sweep, and internal UV flat check.

FGS 11789

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.

FGS 11788

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.

FGS 11785

Trigonometric Calibration of the Distance Scale for Classical Novae

The distance scale for classical novae is important for understanding the stellar physics of their thermonuclear runaways, their contribution to Galactic nucleosynthesis, and their use as extragalactic standard candles. Although it is known that there is a relationship between their absolute magnitudes at maximum light and their subsequent rates of decline–the well-known maximum-magnitude rate-of-decline (MMRD) relation–it is difficult to set the zero-point for the MMRD because of the very uncertain distances of Galactic novae.

We propose to measure precise trigonometric parallaxes for the quiescent remnants of the four nearest classical novae. We will use the Fine Guidance Sensors, which are proven to be capable of measuring parallaxes with errors of ~0.2 mas, well below what is possible from the ground.


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


11673 – REacq(1,2,2) scheduled at 044/23:45:20 – 23:53:34 resulted in fine lock backup (1,0,1) using FGS-1 due to (QF2STOPF) stop flag indication on FGS-2.

Possible observations affected: WFPC 123, 124 Proposal ID#11967.

11677 – GSacq (2,3,3) scheduled from 048/01:31:06 – 01:38:27 resulted in Fine Lock Back-up (2,0,2).

Possible observations affected: Astrometry Proposal ID#11944



                          SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL

FGS GSacq                 27                 27
FGS REacq                 29                 29
OBAD with Maneuver       112                112


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