Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4820

By SpaceRef Editor
April 2, 2009
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Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am March 26 – 5am March 27, 2009 (DOY 085/0900z-086/0900z)


WFPC2 10877

A Snapshot Survey of the Sites of Recent, Nearby Supernovae

During the past few years, robotic {or nearly robotic} searches for supernovae {SNe}, most notably our Lick Observatory Supernova Search {LOSS}, have found hundreds of SNe, many of them in quite nearby galaxies {cz < 4000 km/s}. Most of the objects were discovered before maximum brightness, and have follow-up photometry and spectroscopy; they include some of the best-studied SNe to date. We propose to conduct a snapshot imaging survey of the sites of some of these nearby objects, to obtain late-time photometry that {through the shape of the light and color curves} will help reveal the origin of their lingering energy. The images will also provide high-resolution information on the local environments of SNe that are far superior to what we can procure from the ground. For example, we will obtain color-color and color-magnitude diagrams of stars in these SN sites, to determine the SN progenitor masses and constraints on the reddening. Recovery of the SNe in the new HST images will also allow us to actually pinpoint their progenitor stars in cases where pre- explosion images exist in the HST archive. This proposal is an extension of our successful Cycle 13 snapshot survey with ACS. It is complementary to our Cycle 15 archival proposal, which is a continuation of our long-standing program to use existing HST images to glean information about SN environments.

ACS/SBC 11791

The Wavelength Dependence of Accretion Disk Structure

We can now routinely measure the size of quasar accretion disks using gravitational microlensing of lensed quasars. The next step to testing accretion disk models is to measure the size of accretion disks as a function of wavelength, particularly at the UV and X-ray wavelengths that should probe the inner, strong gravity regime. Here we focus on two four-image quasar lenses that already have optical (R band) and X-ray size measurements using microlensing. We will combine the HST observations with ground-based monitoring to measure the disk size as a function of wavelength from the near-IR to the UV. We require HST to measure the image flux ratios in the ultraviolet continuum near the Lyman limit of the quasars. The selected targets have estimated black hole masses that differ by an order of magnitude, and we should find wavelength scalings for the two systems that are very different because the Blue/UV wavelengths should correspond to parts of the disk near the inner edge for the high mass system but not in the low mass system. The results will be modeled using a combination of simple thin disk models and complete relativistic disk models. While requiring only 18 orbits, success for one system requires observations in both Cycles 16 and 17.

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 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.

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 11974

High-resolution Imaging for 9 Very Bright, Spectroscopically Confirmed, Group-scale Lenses

There are large samples of strong lenses that probe small (galaxy) scale masses (e.g., SLACS, SQLS, COSMOS). There are also large samples of strong lenses that probe large (rich cluster) scale masses (e.g., various rich Abell clusters, the Hennawi et al. 2008 SDSS sample). The sample of strong lenses that probe intermediate (group/cluster-core) scale masses, however, is sparse, and so any significant additions to this sample are important. Here we present a sample of strong lenses that not only probe these intermediate scales but are also quite bright, since the sample is based almost entirely upon data from the SDSS, a relatively shallow and poor-resolution survey, at least in comparison to most other strong lens hunting grounds, such as COSMOS and CFHTLS. What we lack are the high-resolution imaging data needed to construct detailed lensing models, to probe the mass and light profiles of the lensing galaxies and their environments, and to characterize the morphologies of the lensed (source) galaxies. Only HST can provide these data, and so we are proposing here for 81 orbits of deep WFPC2 F450W, F606W and F814W imaging, for 9 of our best and brightest intermediate-scale lensing systems with known spectroscopic redshifts and with Einstein radii between 4 and 8 arcsec.

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.


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


11741 – GSAcq (1,3,1) scheduled @085/11:15:43z resulted in Fine Lock Back-up (1,0,1) @ 085/11:26:05z Observations possibly affected: ACS #2, Proposal ID #11791

11742 – GSAcq (1,2,2) scheduled @85/21:15:48z failed to RGA Control during LOS. Observations affected: WFPC #149-150, Proposal ID #11974.



                        SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL
FGS GSAcq                06               05
FGS REAcq                07               07
OBAD with Maneuver       26               26


SpaceRef staff editor.