Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4817

By SpaceRef Editor
March 26, 2009
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Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am March 23 – 5am March 24, 2009 (DOY 082/0900z-083/0900z)


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.

WFPC2 11302

WFPC2 CYCLE 16 Standard Darks – Part III

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 11793

WFPC2 Cycle 16 Internal Monitor

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.

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 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


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

HSTARS: (None)



                        SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL

FGS GSAcq               05                 05
FGS REAcq               08                 08
OBAD with Maneuver      26                 26


SpaceRef staff editor.