Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #5173

By SpaceRef Editor
September 3, 2010
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Continuing to Collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am September 1 – 5am September 2, 2010 (DOY 244/09:00z-245/09:00z)


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




FGS GSAcq 9 9
FGS REAcq 6 6
OBAD with Maneuver 9 9



ACS/WFC 11996

CCD Daily Monitor (Part 3)

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 308 orbits (19.25 weeks) from 21 June 2010 to 1 November 2010.

COS/FUV 12216

Taming the Invisible Monster with COS: Eclipse Spectroscopy of Epsilon Aurigae

We request three single orbit COS observations of the enigmatic binary epsilon Aurigae. This 27-year binary will be in total eclipse during all of 2010 and into spring 2011. COS observations are needed in order to (1) confirm, via higher S/N UV spectroscopy, the FUSE observation that a B5V star lurks inside the eclipse-causing dust disk, (2) obtain temperature and density diagnostics of the line of sight columns during eclipse for inclusion in the ongoing, panchromatic studies of this rare event, and (3) allow, in coordination with Spitzer Space Telescope observations, a detailed view of the “invisible” large eclipsing dust disk surrounding the B star. Only COS has the full UV wavelength coverage to sample two of the three components in this binary (the F and B stars) with the SNR to accomplish our scientific goals.

FGS 12321

The Parallax of the Planet Host Star XO-3

We will use HST+FGS to measure the parallax of the transiting planet host star XO-3. The resulting accurate distance measurement will provide the most accurate radius determination to date for this massive extrasolar planet (XO-3b), allowing us to critically test current giant extrasolar planet structure models. These observations will also constrain the amount of heating that may be produced inside XO-3b by tides raised on the planet as it moves through its 3.2 d eccentric (e ~ 0.22) orbit.

NIC2/WFC3/IR 11219

Active Galactic Nuclei in Nearby Galaxies: A New View of the Origin of the Radio-Loud Radio-Quiet Dichotomy?

Using archival HST and Chandra observations of 34 nearby early-type galaxies (drawn from a complete radio selected sample) we have found evidence that the radio-loud/radio-quiet dichotomy is directly connected to the structure of the inner regions of their host galaxies in the following sense: [1] Radio-loud AGN are associated with galaxies with shallow cores in their light profiles [2] Radio-quiet AGN are only hosted by galaxies with steep cusps. Since the brightness profile is determined by the galaxy’s evolution, through its merger history, our results suggest that the same process sets the AGN flavor. This provides us with a novel tool to explore the co-evolution of galaxies and supermassive black holes, and it opens a new path to understand the origin of the radio-loud/radio-quiet AGN dichotomy. Currently our analysis is statistically incomplete as the brightness profile is not available for 82 of the 116 targets. Most galaxies were not observed with HST, while in some cases the study is obstructed by the presence of dust features. We here propose to perform an infrared NICMOS snapshot survey of these 82 galaxies. This will enable us to i) test the reality of the dichotomic behavior in a substantially larger sample; ii) extend the comparison between radio-loud and radio-quiet AGN to a larger range of luminosities.

STIS/CCD 11567

Boron Abundances in Rapidly Rotating Early-B Stars

Models of rotation in early-B stars predict that rotationally driven mixing should deplete surface boron abundances during the main-sequence lifetime of many stars. However, recent work has shown that many boron depleted stars are intrinsically slow rotators for which models predict no depletion should have occurred, while observations of nitrogen in some more rapidly rotating stars show less mixing than the models predict. Boron can provide unique information on the earliest stages of mixing in B stars, but previous surveys have been biased towards narrow-lined stars because of the difficulty in measuring boron abundances in rapidly rotating stars. The two targets observed as part of our Cycle 13 SNAP program 10175, just before STIS failed, demonstrate that it is possible to make useful boron abundance measurements for early-B stars with Vsin(i) above 100 km/s. We propose to extend that survey to a large enough sample of stars to allow statistically significant tests of models of rotational mixing in early-B stars.

STIS/CCD 11843

STIS CCD Performance Monitor

This activity measures the baseline performance and commandability of the CCD subsystem. Only primary amplifier D is used. Bias and Flatfield exposures are taken in order to measure bias level, read noise, CTE, and gain. Numerous bias frames are taken to permit construction of “superbias” frames in which the effects of read noise have been rendered negligible. Full frame and binned observations are made, with binning factors of 2 x 1, 1 x 2, 2 x 2. Bias frames are taken in subarray readouts to check the bias level for ACQ and ACQ/PEAK observations. All exposures are internals.

STIS/CCD 11845

CCD Dark Monitor Part 2

Monitor the darks for the STIS CCD.

STIS/CCD 11847

CCD Bias Monitor-Part 2

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.


The Formation Mechanisms of Extreme Horizontal Branch Stars

Blue hook stars are a class of hot (~35, 000 K) subluminous extreme horizontal branch (EHB) stars that have been recently discovered using HST ultraviolet images of the massive globular clusters omega Cen and NGC 2808. These stars occupy a region of the HR diagram that is unexplained by canonical stellar evolution theory. Using new theoretical evolutionary and atmospheric models, we have shown that the blue hook stars are very likely the progeny of stars that undergo extensive internal mixing during a late helium core flash on the white dwarf cooling curve. This “flash mixing” produces an enormous enhancement of the surface helium and carbon abundances (relative to the abundance pattern that existed on the main sequence), which suppresses the observed flux in the far-UV. Because stars born with a high helium abundance are more likely to evolve into hot horizontal branch stars, flash mixing is more likely to occur in those massive clusters capable of helium self-enrichment. However, a high initial helium abundance, by itself, is not sufficient to explain the presence of a blue hook population – flash mixing of the envelope is also required.

We propose far-UV spectroscopy of normal and subluminous EHB stars in NGC 2808 that will unambiguously test this new formation mechanism. These observations will easily detect the helium and carbon enhancements predicted by flash mixing and will therefore determine if flash mixing represents a new evolutionary channel for populating the hot end of the EHB. More generally, our observations will help to clarify the role of helium self-enrichment in producing blue horizontal branch morphologies and multiple main sequences in massive globular clusters. Finally, these results will provide new insight into the origin and abundance anomalies of the hot helium-rich subdwarf B and O stars in the Galactic field.

WFC3/ACS/IR 11647

A Deep Exploration of Classes of Long Period Variable Stars in M31

We propose a thrifty but information-packed investigation with WFC3/IR F160W and F110W providing crucial information about Long Period Variables in M31, at a level of detail that has recently allowed the discovery of new variable star classes in the Magellanic Clouds, a very different stellar population. These observations are buttressed by an extensive map of the same fields with ACS and WFC3 exposures in F555W and F814W, and a massive ground- based imaging patrol producing well-sampled light curves for more than 400,000 variable stars. Our primary goal is to collect sufficient NIR data in order to analyze and classify the huge number of long-period variables in our catalog (see below) through Period Luminosity (P/L) diagrams. We will produce accurate P/L diagrams for both the bulge and a progression of locations throughout the disk of M31. These diagrams will be similar in quality to those currently in the Magellanic Clouds, with their lower metallicity, radically different star formation history, and larger spread in distance to the variables. M31 offers an excellent chance to study more typical disk populations, in a manner which might be extended to more distant galaxies where such variables are still visible, probing a much more evenly spread progenitor age distribution than cepheids (and perhaps useful as a distance scale alternative or cross- check). Our data will also provide a massive and unique color-magnitude dataset; we expect that this study will produce several important results, among them a better understanding of P/L and P/L-color relations for pulsating variables which are essential to the extragalactic distance ladder. We will view these variables at a common distance over a range of metallicities (eliminating the distance-error vs. metallicity ambiguity between the LMC and SMC), allow further insight into possible faint-variable mass-loss for higher metallicities, and in general produce a sample more typical of giant disk galaxies predominant in many studies.

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/UV 12237

Orbits, Masses, Densities, and Colors of Two Transneptunian Binaries

Binaries are the key to learning many crucial bulk properties of transneptunian objects (TNOs) including their masses. Perhaps the most interesting mass-dependent property of a TNO is its bulk density, which provides unique information about its bulk composition and interior structure. Densities have so far only been measured for a handful of binary TNO systems. This proposal seeks to determine orbits and thus masses of two more binary TNOs, both of which are also to be observed at thermal infrared wavelengths by the Herschel spacecraft. Combining the masses from Hubble with the sizes from Herschel will enable us to compute their densities. We will also obtain multi-wavelength photometric colors of the individual components of each binary system. It is imperative to link colors to the physical properties measurable in binary systems in order to use the remnant planetesimals in today’s Kuiper belt to learn more about the early history of our own solar system, and more generally about how planetesimals form in nebular disks and subsequently evolve.

WFC3/UVIS 11729

Photometric Metallicity Calibration with WFC3 Specialty Filters

The community has chosen to include several filters in the WFC3 filter complement that have been designed to allow fairly precise estimates of stellar metallicities, and many science programs are enabled by this capability. Since these filters do not exactly match those used for this purpose on the ground, however, the mapping of stellar colors to stellar metallicities needs to be calibrated. We propose to achieve this calibration through observations of five stellar clusters with well known metallicities. We will calibrate several different filter calibrations which will allow future users to determine what filter combination best meets their science needs.

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 11912

UVIS Internal Flats

This proposal will be used to assess the stability of the flat field structure for the UVIS detector throughout the 15 months of Cycle 17. The data will be used to generate on-orbit updates for the delta-flat field reference files used in the WFC3 calibration pipeline, if significant changes in the flat structure are seen.

WFC3/UVIS 11914

UVIS Earth Flats

This program is an experimental path finder for Cycle 18 calibration. Visible-wavelength flat fields will be obtained by observing the dark side of the Earth during periods of full moon illumination. The observations will consist of full-frame streaked WFC3 UVIS imagery: per 22- min total exposure time in a single “dark-sky” orbit, we anticipate collecting 7000 e/pix in F606W or 4500 e/pix in F814W. To achieve Poisson S/N > 100 per pixel, we require at least 2 orbits of F606W and 3 orbits of F814W.

For UVIS narrowband filters, exposures of 1 sec typically do not saturate on the sunlit Earth, so we will take sunlit Earth flats for three of the more-commonly used narrowband filters in Cycle 17 plus the also-popular long-wavelength quad filters, for which we get four filters at once.

Why not use the Sunlit Earth for the wideband visible-light filters? It is too bright in the visible for WFC3 UVIS minimum exposure time of 0.5 sec. Similarly, for NICMOS the sunlit-Earth is too bright which saturates the detector too quickly and/or induces abnormal behaviors such as super-shading (Gilmore 1998, NIC 098-011). In the narrowband visible and broadband near- UV its not too bright (predictions in Cox et al. 1987 “Standard Astronomical Sources for HST: 6. Spatially Flat Fields.” and observations in ACS Program 10050).

Other possibilities? Cox et al.’s Section II.D addresses many other possible sources for flat fields, rejecting them for a variety of reasons. A remaining possibility would be the totally eclipsed moon. Such eclipses provide approximately 2 hours (1 HST orbit) of opportunity per year, so they are too rare to be generically useful. An advantage of the moon over the Earth is that the moon subtends less than 0.25 square degree, whereas the Earth subtends a steradian or more, so scattered light and light potentially leaking around the shutter presents additional problems for the Earth. Also, we’re unsure if HST can point 180 deg from the Sun.

SpaceRef staff editor.