Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4842

By SpaceRef Editor
April 28, 2009
Filed under , ,

HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE – Continuing to collect World Class Science


PERIOD COVERED: 5am April 27 – 5am April 28, 2009 (DOY


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 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 for 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

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 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 12000
The Natural Coronagraph of R Coronae Borealis

We propose HST/WFPC2 imaging to take advantage of a recent unique and
dramatic fading of the unusual variable star R Coronae Borealis. R CrB
has temporarily dropped 9 mag due to formation of a dust cloud above
the photosphere in the line of sight. Since the dust does not block
the star as seen from other directions, it acts as a “natural
coronagraph, ” allowing us to explore the nearby circumstellar
environment at HST resolution.

R Coronae Borealis (RCB) stars are rare hydrogen-deficient carbon-rich
supergiants. Evolutionary scenarios proposed to account for their
origin include a merger of two white dwarfs (the double-degenerate or
DD mode), or a final helium-shell flash in a single PN central star
(FF mode). We have recently found a large overabundance of oxygen-18
in several RCB stars, favoring the DD merger scenario; however, the
presence of Li in the atmospheres of four RCB stars, including R CrB
itself, favors the FF scenario. The presence or absence of
circumstellar material, and the morphology of this material if it
exists, provide a fossil record of previous evolutionary stages. In
particular, we expect to see evidence for an old PN shell in the FF
stars, but not in DD merger descendants.

Our recent Gemini optical images of R CrB tantalizingly suggest
circumstellar material very close to the star, but compromised by
ground-based seeing and relatively low S/N. We propose HST/WFPC2
images to confirm this material at higher spatial resolution and
signal than attainable from the ground.


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

HSTARS: (None)




FGS GSAcq 08 08
FGS REAcq 06 06
OBAD with Maneuver 26 26


SpaceRef staff editor.