Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #5005

By SpaceRef Editor
January 8, 2010
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Continuing to Collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am January 4 – 5am January 5, 2010 (DOY 004/10:00z-005/10:00z)


ACS/WFC3 11735

The LSD Project: Dynamics, Merging and Stellar Populations of a Sample of Well- Studied LBGs at z~3

A large observational effort with the ground-based ESO/VLT telescopes allowed us to obtain deep, spatially-resolved, near-IR spectra of complete sample of 11 Lyman-Break Galaxies at z~3.1. These observations were used to obtain, for the first time, the metallicity and the dynamical properties of a sample of objects that, albeit small, is representative of the total population of the LBGs. We propose to use HST to obtain high-resolution optical and near-IR images of this sample of LBGs in order to study the broad-band morphology and the stellar light distribution of these galaxies. These images, exploiting the superior spatial resolution of HST images and the low- background : 1- will allow a precise measure of the dynamical mass from the velocity field derived with spectroscopy; 2- will permit a comparison of the distribution of star formation (from the line emission) with the underlying stellar population, and, 3- will be used to check if the complex velocity field and the multiple line-emitting regions detected in most targets can be ascribed to on-going mergers. This accurate study will shed light on a number of unsolved problems still affecting the knowledge of the LBGs.

ACS/WFC3 11879

CCD Daily Monitor (Part 1)

This program comprises basic tests for measuring the read noise and dark current of the ACS WFC and for tracking the growth of hot pixels. The recorded frames are used to create bias and dark reference images for science data reduction and calibration. This program will be executed four days per week (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun) for the duration of Cycle 17. To facilitate scheduling, this program is split into three proposals. This proposal covers 352 orbits (22 weeks) from 31 August 2009 to 31 January 2010.

COS/FUV 11897

FUV Spectroscopic Sensitivity Monitoring

The purpose of this proposal is to monitor sensitivity in each FUV grating mode to detect any changes due to contamination or other causes.

COS/NUV 11894

NUV Detector Dark Monitor

The purpose of this proposal is to measure the NUV detector dark rate by taking long science exposures with no light on the detector. The detector dark rate and spatial distribution of counts will be compared to pre-launch and SMOV data in order to verify the nominal operation of the detector. Variations of count rate as a function of orbital position will be analyzed to find dependence of dark rate on proximity to the SAA. Dependence of dark rate as function of time will also be tracked.


Probing Warm-Hot Intergalactic Gas at 0.5 < z < 1.3 with a Blind Survey for O VI, Ne VIII, Mg X, and Si XII Absorption Systems Currently we can only account for half of the baryons (or less) expected to be found in the nearby universe based on D/H and CMB observations. This “missing baryons problem” is one of the highest-priority challenges in observational extragalatic astronomy. Cosmological simulations suggest that the baryons are hidden in low-density, shock-heated intergalactic gas in the log T = 5 – 7 range, but intensive UV and X-ray surveys using O VI, O VII, and O VIII absorption lines have not yet confirmed this prediction. We propose to use COS to carry out a sensitive survey for Ne VIII and Mg X absorption in the spectra of nine QSOs at z(QSO) > 0.89. For the three highest-redshift QSOs, we will also search for Si XII. This survey will provide more robust constraints on the quantity of baryons in warm-hot intergalactic gas at 0.5 < z < 1.3, and the data will provide rich constraints on the metal enrichment, physical conditions, and nature of a wide variety of QSO absorbers in addition to the warm-hot systems. By comparing the results to other surveys at lower redshifts (with STIS, FUSE, and from the COS GTO programs), the project will also enable the first study of how these absorbers evolve with redshift at z < 1. By combining the program with follow-up galaxy redshift surveys, we will also push the study of galaxy-absorber relationships to higher redshifts, with an emphasis on the distribution of the WHIM with respect to the large-scale matter distribution of the universe. NIC3/WFC3/IR 11149 Characterizing the Stellar Populations in Lyman-Alpha Emitters and Lyman Break Galaxies at 5.7< z<7 in the Subaru Deep Field The epoch of reionization marks a major phase transition of the Universe, during which the intergalactic space became transparent to UV photons. Determining when this occurred and the physical processes involved represents the latest frontier in observational cosmology. Over the last few years, searches have intensified to identify the population of high-redshift (z>6) galaxies that might be responsible for this process, but the progress is hampered partly by the difficulty of obtaining physical information (stellar mass, age, star formation rate/history) for individual sources. This is because the number of z>6 galaxies that have both secure spectroscopic redshifts and high-quality infrared photometry (especially with Spitzer/IRAC) is still fairly small. Considering that only several photometric points are available per source, and that many model SEDs are highly degenerate, it is crucial to obtain as many observational constraints as possible for each source to ensure the validity of SED modeling. To better understand the physical properties of high-redshift galaxies, we propose here to conduct HST/NICMOS (72 orbits) and Spitzer/IRAC (102 hours) imaging of spectroscopically confirmed, bright (z<26 mag (AB)) Ly-alpha emitters (LAEs) and Lyman-break galaxies (LBGs) at 5.7< z<7 selected from the Subaru Deep Field. Spectroscopic redshifts remove one critical free parameter from SED modeling while bright source magnitudes ensure high-quality photometric data. By making accurate determinations of stellar masses, ages, and star-formation histories, we will specifically address the following major questions: (1) Do LAEs and LBGs represent physically different galaxy populations at z>6 as suggested recently? (2) Is Ly-alpha emission systematically suppressed at z>6 with respect to continuum emission? (i.e., are we reaching the epoch of incomplete reionization?), and (3) Do we see any sign of abnormally young stellar population in any of the z>6 galaxies?

STIS/CCD 11844

CCD Dark Monitor Part 1

The purpose of this proposal is to monitor the darks for the STIS CCD.

STIS/CCD 11846

CCD Bias Monitor-Part 1

The purpose of this proposal is to monitor the bias in the 1×1, 1×2, 2×1, and 2×2 bin settings at gain=1, and 1×1 at gain = 4, to build up high-S/N superbiases and track the evolution of hot columns.

STIS/CCD/MA2 11568

A SNAPSHOT Survey of the Local Interstellar Medium: New NUV Observations of Stars with Archived FUV Observations

We propose to obtain high-resolution STIS E230H SNAP observations of MgII and FeII interstellar absorption lines toward stars within 100 parsecs that already have moderate or high-resolution far-UV (FUV), 900-1700 A, observations available in the MAST Archive. Fundamental properties, such as temperature, turbulence, ionization, abundances, and depletions of gas in the local interstellar medium (LISM) can be measured by coupling such observations. Due to the wide spectral range of STIS, observations to study nearby stars also contain important data about the LISM embedded within their spectra. However, unlocking this information from the intrinsically broad and often saturated FUV absorption lines of low-mass ions, (DI, CII, NI, OI), requires first understanding the kinematic structure of the gas along the line of sight. This can be achieved with high resolution spectra of high-mass ions, (FeII, MgII), which have narrow absorption lines, and can resolve each individual velocity component (interstellar cloud). By obtaining short (~10 minute) E230H observations of FeII and MgII, for stars that already have moderate or high-resolution FUV spectra, we can increase the sample of LISM measurements, and thereby expand our knowledge of the physical properties of the gas in our galactic neighborhood. STIS is the only instrument capable of obtaining the required high resolution data now or in the foreseeable future.

WFC3/ACS/IR 11584

Resolving the Smallest Galaxies with ACS

An order of magnitude more dwarf galaxies are expected to inhabit the Local Group, based on currently accepted galaxy formation models, than have been observed. This discrepancy has been noted in environments ranging from the field to rich clusters, with evidence emerging that lower density regions contain fewer dwarfs per giant than higher density regions, in further contrast to model predictions. However, there is no complete census of the faintest dwarf galaxies in any environment. The discovery of the smallest and faintest dwarfs is hampered by the limitations in detecting such compact or low surface brightness galaxies, and this is compounded by the great difficulty in determining accurate distances to, or ascertaining group membership for, such faint objects. The M81 group provides a powerful means for establishing membership for faint galaxies in a low density region. With a distance modulus of 27.8, the tip of the red giant branch (TRGB) appears at I ~ 24, just within the reach of ground based surveys. We have completed a 65 square degree survey in the region around M81 with the CFHT/MegaCam. Half of our survey was completed before Cycle 16 and we were awarded time with WFPC2 to observe 15 new candidate dwarf galaxy group members in F606W and F814W bands in order to construct color-magnitude diagrams from which to measure accurate TRGB distances and determine star formation and metallicity histories. The data obtained show that 8 – 9 of these objects are galaxies at the same distance as M81. In completing our survey, we have discovered an additional 8 candidate galaxies we propose to image with ACS in order to measure TRGB distances and establish membership. We also wish to re-observe our smallest candidate group member and a tidal dwarf candidate with deeper observations made possible with ACS. Once membership has been established for this second set of candidates, we will have a complete census of the dwarf galaxy population in the M8 group to M_r ~ -10, allowing us to obtain a firm measurement of the luminosity function faint-end slope, and, combined with previous HST data, to provide a complete inventory of the age and abundance properties for the collapsed core of the M81 group.

WFC3/IR 11696

Infrared Survey of Star Formation Across Cosmic Time

We propose to use the unique power of WFC3 slitless spectroscopy to measure the evolution of cosmic star formation from the end of the reionization epoch at z>6 to the close of the galaxy-building era at z~0.3.Pure parallel observations with the grisms have proven to be efficient for identifying line emission from galaxies across a broad range of redshifts. The G102 grism on WFC3 was designed to extend this capability to search for Ly-alpha emission from the first galaxies. Using up to 250 orbits of pure parallel WFC3 spectroscopy, we will observe about 40 deep (4-5 orbit) fields with the combination of G102 and G141, and about 20 shallow (2-3 orbit) fields with G141 alone.

Our primary science goals at the highest redshifts are: (1) Detect Lya in ~100 galaxies with z>5.6 and measure the evolution of the Lya luminosity function, independent of of cosmic variance; 2) Determine the connection between emission line selected and continuum-break selected galaxies at these high redshifts, and 3) Search for the proposed signature of neutral hydrogen absorption at re-ionization. At intermediate redshifts we will (4) Detect more than 1000 galaxies in Halpha at 0.5< z<1.8 to measure the evolution of the extinction-corrected star formation density across the peak epoch of star formation. This is over an order-of-magnitude improvement in the current statistics, from the NICMOS Parallel grism survey. (5) Trace ``cosmic downsizing" from 0.5< z<2.2; and (6) Estimate the evolution in reddening and metallicty in star-forming galaxies and measure the evolution of the Seyfert population. For hundreds of spectra we will be able to measure one or even two line pair ratios -- in particular, the Balmer decrement and [OII]/[OIII] are sensitive to gas reddening and metallicity. As a bonus, the G102 grism offers the possibility of detecting Lya emission at z=7-8.8. To identify single-line Lya emitters, we will exploit the wide 0.8–1.9um wavelength coverage of the combined G102+G141 spectra. All [OII] and [OIII] interlopers detected in G102 will be reliably separated from true LAEs by the detection of at least one strong line in the G141 spectrum, without the need for any ancillary data. We waive all proprietary rights to our data and will make high-level data products available through the ST/ECF. WFC3/IR 11712 Calibration of Surface Brightness Fluctuations for WFC3/IR We aim to characterize galaxy surface brightness fluctuations (SBF), and calibrate the SBF distance method, in the F110W and F160W filters of the Wide Field Camera 3 IR channel. Because of the very high throughput of F110W and the good match of F160W to the standard H band, we anticipate that both of these filters will be popular choices for galaxy observations with WFC3/IR. The SBF signal is typically an order of magnitude brighter in the near-IR than in the optical, and the characteristics (sensitivity, FOV, cosmetics) of the WFC3/IR channel will be enormously more efficient for SBF measurements than previously available near-IR cameras. As a result, our proposed SBF calibration will allow accurate distance derivation whenever an early-type or bulge- dominated galaxy is observed out to a distance of 150 Mpc or more (i.e., out to the Hubble flow) in the calibrated passbands. For individual galaxy observations, an accurate distance is useful for establishing absolute luminosities, black hole masses, linear sizes, etc. Eventually, once a large number of galaxies have been observed across the sky with WFC3/IR, this SBF calibration will enable accurate mapping of the total mass density distribution in the local universe using the data available in the HST archive. The proposed observations will have additional important scientific value; in particular, we highlight their usefulness for understanding the nature of multimodal globular cluster color distributions in giant elliptical galaxies. WFC3/IR 11719 A Calibration Database for Stellar Models of Asymptotic Giant Branch Stars Studies of galaxy formation and evolution rely increasingly on the interpretation and modeling of near-infrared observations. At these wavelengths, the brightest stars are intermediate mass asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars. These stars can contribute nearly 50% of the integrated luminosity at near infrared and even optical wavelengths, particularly for the younger stellar populations characteristic of high-redshift galaxies (z>1). AGB stars are also significant sources of dust and heavy elements. Accurate modeling of AGB stars is therefore of the utmost importance.

The primary limitation facing current models is the lack of useful calibration data. Current models are tuned to match the properties of the AGB population in the Magellanic Clouds, and thus have only been calibrated in a very narrow range of sub- solar metallicities. Preliminary observations already suggest that the models are overestimating AGB lifetimes by factors of 2-3 at lower metallicities. At higher (solar) metallicities, there are no appropriate observations for calibrating the models.

We propose a WFC3/IR SNAP survey of nearby galaxies to create a large database of AGB populations spanning the full range of metallicities and star formation histories. Because of their intrinsically red colors and dusty circumstellar envelopes, tracking the numbers and bolometric fluxes of AGB stars requires the NIR observations we propose here. The resulting observations of nearby galaxies with deep ACS imaging offer the opportunity to obtain large (100-1000’s) complete samples of AGB stars at a single distance, in systems with well-constrained star formation histories and metallicities.

WFC3/IR 11915

IR Internal Flat Fields

This program is the same as 11433 (SMOV) and depends on the completion of the IR initial alignment (Program 11425). This version contains three instances of 37 internal orbits: to be scheduled early, middle, and near the end of Cycle 17, in order to use the entire 110-orbit allocation.

In this test, we will study the stability and structure of the IR channel flat field images through all filter elements in the WFC3-IR channel. Flats will be monitored, i.e. to capture any temporal trends in the flat fields and delta flats produced. High signal observations will provide a map of the pixel-to-pixel flat field structure, as well as identify the positions of any dust particles.

WFC3/IR/S/C 11929

IR Dark Current Monitor

Analyses of ground test data showed that dark current signals are more reliably removed from science data using darks taken with the same exposure sequences as the science data, than with a single dark current image scaled by desired exposure time. Therefore, dark current images must be collected using all sample sequences that will be used in science observations. These observations will be used to monitor changes in the dark current of the WFC3-IR channel on a day-to-day basis, and to build calibration dark current ramps for each of the sample sequences to be used by Gos in Cycle 17. For each sample sequence/array size combination, a median ramp will be created and delivered to the calibration database system (CDBS).

WFC3/UVIS 11905

WFC3 UVIS CCD Daily Monitor

The behavior of the WFC3 UVIS CCD will be monitored daily with a set of full-frame, four-amp bias and dark frames. A smaller set of 2Kx4K subarray biases are acquired at less frequent intervals throughout the cycle to support subarray science observations. The internals from this proposal, along with those from the anneal procedure (Proposal 11909), will be used to generate the necessary superbias and superdark reference files for the calibration pipeline (CDBS).

WFC3/UVIS 11908

Cycle 17: UVIS Bowtie Monitor

Ground testing revealed an intermittent hysteresis type effect in the UVIS detector (both CCDs) at the level of ~1%, lasting hours to days. Initially found via an unexpected bowtie-shaped feature in flatfield ratios, subsequent lab tests on similar e2v devices have since shown that it is also present as simply an overall offset across the entire CCD, i.e., a QE offset without any discernable pattern. These lab tests have further revealed that overexposing the detector to count levels several times full well fills the traps and effectively neutralizes the bowtie. Each visit in this proposal acquires a set of three 3×3 binned internal flatfields: the first unsaturated image will be used to detect any bowtie, the second, highly exposed image will neutralize the bowtie if it is present, and the final image will allow for verification that the bowtie is gone.

WFC3/UVIS/IR 11644

A Dynamical-Compositional Survey of the Kuiper Belt: A New Window Into the Formation of the Outer Solar System

The eight planets overwhelmingly dominate the solar system by mass, but their small numbers, coupled with their stochastic pasts, make it impossible to construct a unique formation history from the dynamical or compositional characteristics of them alone. In contrast, the huge numbers of small bodies scattered throughout and even beyond the planets, while insignificant by mass, provide an almost unlimited number of probes of the statistical conditions, history, and interactions in the solar system. To date, attempts to understand the formation and evolution of the Kuiper Belt have largely been dynamical simulations where a hypothesized starting condition is evolved under the gravitational influence of the early giant planets and an attempt is made to reproduce the current observed populations. With little compositional information known for the real Kuiper Belt, the test particles in the simulation are free to have any formation location and history as long as they end at the correct point. Allowing compositional information to guide and constrain the formation, thermal, and collisional histories of these objects would add an entire new dimension to our understanding of the evolution of the outer solar system. While ground based compositional studies have hit their flux limits already with only a few objects sampled, we propose to exploit the new capabilities of WFC3 to perform the first ever large-scale dynamical-compositional study of Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) and their progeny to study the chemical, dynamical, and collisional history of the region of the giant planets. The sensitivity of the WFC3 observations will allow us to go up to two magnitudes deeper than our ground based studies, allowing us the capability of optimally selecting a target list for a large survey rather than simply taking the few objects that can be measured, as we have had to do to date. We have carefully constructed a sample of 120 objects which provides both overall breadth, for a general understanding of these objects, plus a large enough number of objects in the individual dynamical subclass to allow detailed comparison between and within these groups. These objects will likely define the core Kuiper Belt compositional sample for years to come. While we have many specific results anticipated to come from this survey, as with any project where the field is rich, our current knowledge level is low, and a new instrument suddenly appears which can exploit vastly larger segments of the population, the potential for discovery — both anticipated and not — is extraordinary.


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

HSTARS: (None)



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FGS REAcq 10 10
OBAD with Maneuver 07 07


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