Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4805

By SpaceRef Editor
March 8, 2009
Filed under , ,


Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am March 5 – 5am March 6, 2009 (DOY 064/1000z-065/1000z)


ACS/SBC 11982

Spanning the Reionization History of IGM Helium: a Large and Efficient HST Spectral Survey of Far-UV-Bright Quasars

The reionization of IGM helium is thought to have occurred at redshifts of z=3 to 4. Detailed studies of HeII Lyman-alpha absorption toward a handful of QSOs at 2.72.8 SDSS DR7 (and other) quasars with GALEX GR4 UV sources to obtain 550 new, high confidence, sightlines potentially useful for HST HeII studies; and in cycle 15-16 trials we demonstrated the efficacy of our SDSS/GALEX selection approach identifying 9 new HeII quasars at unprecedented 67% efficiency. We propose the first far-UV-bright HeII quasar survey that is both large in scale and also efficient, via 2-orbit reconnaissance ACS/SBC prism spectra toward a highly select subset of 40 new SDSS/GALEX quasars at 3.14), enabling superb post-SM4 follow-up spectra with COS or STIS. But simultaneously and independent of any SM4 uncertainties, we will hereby directly obtain 10-orbit UV spectral stacks from the 5 HeII quasars in each of the 8 redshift bins to trace the reionization history of IGM helium over at least 3.1

FGS 11704

The Ages of Globular Clusters and the Population II Distance Scale

Globular clusters are the oldest objects in the universe whose age can be accurately determined. The dominant error in globular cluster age determinations is the uncertain Population II distance scale. We propose to use FGS 1r to obtain parallaxes with an accuracy of 0.2 milliarcsecond for 9 main sequence stars with [Fe/H] < -1.5. This will determine the absolute magnitude of these stars with accuracies of 0.04 to 0.06mag. This data will be used to determine the distance to 24 metal-poor globular clusters using main sequence fitting. These distances (with errors of 0.05 mag) will be used to determine the ages of globular clusters using the luminosity of the subgiant branch as an age indicator. This will yield absolute ages with an accuracy 5%, about a factor of two improvement over current estimates. Coupled with existing parallaxes for more metal-rich stars, we will be able to accurately determine the age for globular clusters over a wide range of metallicities in order to study the early formation history of the Milky Way and provide an independent estimate of the age of the universe.

The Hipparcos database contains only 1 star with [Fe/H] < -1.4 and an absolute magnitude error less than 0.18 mag which is suitable for use in main sequence fitting. Previous attempts at main sequence fitting to metal-poor globular clusters have had to rely on theoretical calibrations of the color of the main sequence. Our HST parallax program will remove this source of possible systematic error and yield distances to metal-poor globular clusters which are significantly more accurate than possible with the current parallax data. The HST parallax data will have errors which are 10 times smaller than the current parallax data. Using the HST parallaxes, we will obtain main sequence fitting distances to 11 globular clusters which contain over 500 RR Lyrae stars. This will allow us to calibrate the absolute magnitude of RR Lyrae stars, a commonly used Population II distance indicator.

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 11975

UV Light from Old Stellar Populations: a Census of UV Sources in Galactic Globular Clusters

In spite of the fact that HST has been the only operative high-resolution eye in the UV-window over the last 18 years, no homogeneous UV survey of Galactic globular clusters (GGCs) has been performed to date. In order to fill this gap in the stellar population studies, we propose a program that exploits the unique capability of the WFPC2 and the SBC in the far-/mid- UV for securing deep UV imaging of 46 GGCs. The proposed observations will allow to study with unprecedented accuracy the hottest GGC stars, comprising the extreme horizontal branch (HB) stars and their progeny (the so-called AGB-manque’, and Post-early AGB stars), and “exotic stellar populations” like the blue straggler stars and the interacting binaries. The targets have been selected to properly sample the GGC metallicity/structural parameter space, thus to unveil any possible correlation between the properties of the hot stellar populations and the cluster characteristics. In addition, most of the targets have extended HB “blue tails”, that can be properly studied only by means of deep UV observations, especially in the far-UV filters like the F160BW, that is not foreseen on the WFC3. This data base is complemented with GALEX observations in the cluster outermost regions, thus allowing to investigate any possible trend of the UV-bright stellar types over the entire radial extension of the clusters. Although the hottest GGC stars are just a small class of “special” objects, their study has a broad relevance in the context of structure formation and chemical evolution in the early Universe, bringing precious information on the basic star formation processes and the origin of blue light from galaxies. Indeed, the proposed observations will provide the community with an unprecedented data set suitable for addressing a number of still open astrophysical questions, ranging from the main drivers of the HB morphology and the mass loss processes, to the origin of the UV upturn in elliptical galaxies, the dating of distant systems from integrated light, and the complex interplay between stellar evolution and dynamics in dense stellar aggregates. In the spirit of constructing a community resource, we entirely waive the proprietary period for these observations.

WFPC2 11978

Luminous and Dark Matter in Disk Galaxies from Strong Lensing and Stellar Kinematics

The formation of realistic disk galaxies within the LCDM paradigm is still an unsolved problem. Theory is only now beginning to make predictions for how dark matter halos respond to galaxy formation and for the properties of disk galaxies. Measuring the density profiles of dark matter halos on galaxy scales is therefore a strong test for the standard paradigm of galaxy formation, offering great potential for discovery. However, from an observational point of view, the degeneracy between the stellar and dark matter contributions to galaxy rotation curves remains a major road block. Strong gravitational lensing, when coupled to spatially-resolved kinematics and stellar population models, can solve this long-standing problem. Unfortunately, this joint methodology could not be exploited so far due to the paucity of known edge-on spiral lenses. Exploiting the full SDSS-DR7 archive we have identified a new sample of exactly these systems. We propose multi-color HST imaging to confirm and measure a sample of twenty spiral lenses, covering a range of bulge to disk ratios. By combining dynamical lensing and stellar population information for this unique sample we will deliver the first statistical constraints on halos and disk properties, and a new stringent test of disk galaxy formation theories.

WFPC2 11983

An Imaging Survey of Protoplanetary Disks and Brown Dwarfs in the Chamaeleon I region

We propose to carry out a HST/WFPC2 survey of young brown dwarfs, Class I and Class II sources in the Chamaelon I region, one of the best-studied star-forming regions, in order to investigate the link between disk evolution and the formation of substellar-mass objects. We will use deep broad-band imaging in the I and z-equivalent HST bands to unveil the unknown population of substellar binary companions, down to a few Jupiter masses for separations of a few tens of AU. We will also perform narrow-band imaging to directly detect accreting circumstellar disks and jets around brown dwarfs, Class-I and class-II objects. Chamaelon I is nearly coeaval of Orion (~1-2Myr) but at ~1/3 its distance, allowing 3x higher resolution and 10x more flux for comparable objects. Unlike Orion, low-mass objects and protoplanetary disks in Chamaeleon I have been extensively studied with Spitzer, but not yet with the HST. The Chamaeleon I region is an ideal HST target, as it lies in the CVZ of the HST and therefore it is easily accessible any time of the year with long orbits.


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


#11707 GSAcq(1,2,1) failed to RGA Hold with FGS1 QF1STOPF flag @065/04:06z. GSAcq scheduled 065/04:04:09-04:11:18z. Observations affected: WFPC2 #234-235 & #1-15, Proposal ID #11983



                              SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL
FGS GSAcq                      07             06
FGS REAcq                      05             05
OBAD with Maneuver       22             22


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