Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4811

By SpaceRef Editor
March 16, 2009
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HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE DAILY REPORT #4811

Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am March 13 – 5am March 16, 2009 (DOY 072/0900z-075/0900z)

OBSERVATIONS SCHEDULED

WFPC2 11987

The Recent Star Formation History of SINGS Galaxies

The Spitzer Legacy project SINGS provided a unique view of the current state of star formation and dust in a sample of galaxies of all Hubble types. This multi-wavelength view allowed the team to create current star formation diagnostics that are independent of the dust content and increased our understanding of the dust in galaxies. Even so, using the SINGS data alone we can only make rough estimates of the recent star formation history of these galaxies. The lack of U-band observations means that it is impossible to estimate the ages of young clusters. In addition, the low resolution of the Spitzer and ground-based observations means that what appear to be individual Spitzer sources can actually be composed of many individual clusters with varying ages. In this proposal we plan to address this missing area in SINGS by obtaining high-resolution WFPC2 UBVI observations to accurately find and determine the ages of the young stellar clusters in a subset of the SINGS galaxies. These observations will greatly enhance the legacy value of the SINGS observations while also directly answering questions pertaining to star formation in galaxies.

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 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.

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 11972

Investigating the Early Solar System with Distant Comet Nuclei

We propose 85 orbits of imaging observations with the WFPC2 to get nucleus size estimates for 8 well observed dynamically new and long-period comets at large distances from the sun when their activity levels are low. This will increase the sample of these nucleus sizes by nearly 50%, but will more than double the selection of comets for which we can run thermal models. Small icy bodies are the best preserved remnants of planet formation, and we have recently found that observationally constrained thermal models can distinguish differences in microphysical properties of comet nuclei. The new HST data will enable the first exploration of physical conditions in different regions of the early solar nebula.

WFPC2 11944

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.

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.

FLIGHT OPERATIONS SUMMARY:

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

HSTARS:

11721 – GSAcq (2,1,1) had failed to Fine Lock Back-up (2,0,2). The Guide Star acquisition was scheduled from 14:53:19 – 15:00:43.

Observations possibly affected: WFPC 195 – 196, Proposal ID# 11986.

REAcq (2,1,1) scheduled from 16:27:05 – 16:34:29, resulted in Fine Lock Back-up (2,0,2).

Observations possibly affected: WFPC 197, Proposal ID# 11986.

11723 – GSAcq (2,1,1) scheduled from 073/19:40:56 – 19:48:20, and REAcq (2,1,1) scheduled at 21:14:44 – 21:22:08, both resulted in Fine Lock Back-up (2,0,2).

Observations possibly affected: WFPC 199 – 201, Proposal ID# 11986.

11724 – REACQ (2,1,1) at 073/22:49:56 ended in Fine Lock Backup on FGS 2 with QF1STOPF and QSTOP flags set at 22:54:13.

Observations possibly affected: WFPC 202, proposal ID# 11986.

11725 – GSAcq and REAcq (1,2,2) failed due to Search Radius Limit Exceeded on FGS-1. GSAcq scheduled 074/20:11:08 – 20:18:26z and REAcq scheduled 074/21:27:33 – 21:34:51z.

Observations affected: WFPC 217 – 232, Proposal ID# 11983.

COMPLETED OPS REQUEST: (None)

COMPLETED OPS NOTES: (None)

                        SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL

FGS GSAcq               19                  18
FGS REAcq               20                  19
OBAD with Maneuver      78                  78

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS: (None)

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