Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Status Report #4337

By SpaceRef Editor
April 10, 2007
Filed under , ,
NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Status Report #4337

Notice: For the foreseeable future, the daily reports may contain apparent discrepancies between some proposal descriptions and the listed instrument usage. This is due to the conversion of previously approved ACS WFC or HRC observations into WFPC2, or NICMOS observations subsequent to the loss of ACS CCD science capability in late January.


– Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: UT April 09, 2007 (DOY 099)


WFPC2 10468

Jupiter’s Upper Stratospheric Hazes Probed with Ganymede

I propose to observe a disappearance of Ganymede behind the dark limb of Jupiter with five filters of the ACS/HRC camera. Two exposures in each filter can be taken during such an event. The images will provide the spectral variation of the altitude of the apparent limb of Jupiter. The altitude of the apparent limb is dependent on the presence of hazes in Jupiter’s stratosphere. Hazes of vertical optical depths below 0.001 could be detected with these observations, providing an extremely sensitive probe of high hazes. The observations probe altitudes levels near the 1-mb pressure level, for which we have very limited data. The creation of aerosols, their growth, and their transport by winds is currently a mostly theoretical study. It would significantly benefit from constraints derived from the proposed observations. ACS/HRC is the only instrument capable of the required spatial resolution in the ultraviolet. Furthermore, a favorable geometry of Ganymede’s orbit occurs only once every six years. This proposal achieves unique results with a minimum of HST time.

ACS/SBC 10872

Lyman Continuum Emission in Galaxies at z=1.2

Lyman continuum photons produced in massive starbursts may have played a dominant role in the reionization of the Universe. Starbursts are important contributors to the ionizing metagalactic background at lower redshifts as well. However, their contribution to the background depends upon the fraction of ionizing radiation that escapes from the intrinsic opacity of galaxies below the Lyman limit. Current surveys suggest escape fractions of a few percent, up to 10%, with very few detections {as opposed to upper limits} having been reported. No detections have been reported in the epochs between z=0.1 and z=2. We propose to measure the fraction of escaping Lyman continuum radiation from 15 luminous z~1.2 galaxies in the GOODS fields. Using the tremendous sensitivity of the ACS Solar- blind Channel, we will reach AB=30 mag., allowing us to detect an escape fraction of 1%. We will correlate the amount of escaping radiation with the photometric and morphological properties of the galaxies. A non-detection in all sources would imply that QSOs provide the overwhelming majority of ionizing radiation at z=1.3, and it would strongly indicate that the properties of galaxies at higher redshift have to be significantly different for galaxies to dominate reionization. The deep FUV images will also be useful for extending the FUV study of other galaxies in the GOODS fields.

ACS/SBC 10907

Testing the first direct measurement of cataclysmic variable evolution: the search for a circumbinary disk or a low?mass companion around NN Serpentis

We obtained high time-resolution photometry using the high speed CCD camera ULTRACAM between 2002 and 2004, which revealed a gradual reduction in the orbital period of the pre- cataclysmic variable NN Serpentis. There are three possible explanations for this period change: firstly, we may have been successful in obtaining the first and only direct measurement of the braking rate of a close binary system, in which case our measured values are approximately 2 orders of magnitude greater than predicted, and pose serious problems for the theory of close binary evolution. Secondly, the unusually high braking rate may be caused by the presence of a circumbinary disk, which would help to answer two of the outstanding problems with current CV theory – namely the high mass- transfer rates seen in some CVs, and the fact that the minimum observed value in the CV period distribution is approximately 15% longer than expected. Finally, our observations could be explained by a light travel-time effect caused by a third body in orbit around the binary, which would raise major questions about the evolutionary history of the system, in particular how a third body has managed to remain in a stable orbit throughout periods of intense mass-loss in the central binary. We intend to use IRAC observations to search for a mid-infrared excess in the spectral energy distribution of NN Ser, which would confirm the presence of either a disk or a third body. We then propose to use HST imaging to attempt to resolve a third body, allowing us to discriminate between the two possibilities. If both methods fail to reveal any extra system components, we will have ruled out our only remaining alternatives to a genuinely high angular momentum loss rate in this system, with profound implications for CV evolution.

WFPC2 10166

ACS and WFPC2 Stellar Photometry in the Kepler Mission Target Field

We will observe three regions at the Galactic Equator {GE} to determine the number of stars in the magnitude range from 18 to 25 in the target field of the NASA Kepler mission. This mission will search for Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. The field is a twelve by twelve degree square in Cygnus. It abuts the GE. The detection technique is to search photometrically for planetary transits. Faint eclipsing binaries that are not spatially resolved from the target star by Kepler may cause confusion, leading to false positive detections. The HST is uniquely capable of determining the potential magnitude of the issue in the region of the GE, where stellar densities are extremely high.

WFPC2 11024


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.

FGS 10612

Binary Stars in Cyg OB2: Relics of Massive Star Formation in a Super-Star Cluster

We propose to make a high angular resolution SNAP survey of the massive stars in the nearby, super-star cluster Cyg OB2. We will use FGS1r TRANS mode observations to search for astrometric companions in the separation range of 0.01 to 1.00 arcsec and in the magnitude difference range smaller than 4 magnitudes. The observations will test the idea that the formation of very massive stars involves mergers and the presence of nearby companions. Discovery of companions to massive stars in this relatively nearby complex will provide guidance in the interpretation of apparently supermassive stars in distant locations. The search for companions will also be important for verification of fundamental parameters derived from spectroscopy, adjustments to main sequence fitting and distance estimations, determining third light contributions of eclipsing binaries, identifying wide colliding wind binaries, studying the relationship between orbital and spin angular momentum, and discovering binaries amenable to future mass determinations. The massive star environment in Cyg OB2 may be similar to the kinds found in the earliest epoch of star formation, so that a study of the role of binaries in Cyg OB2 will help us understand the formation processes of the first stars in the Universe.

NIC1/NIC2/NIC3 8795

NICMOS Post-SAA calibration – CR Persistence Part 6

A new proceedure proposed to alleviate the CR-persistence problem of NICMOS. Dark frames will be obtained immediately upon exiting the SAA contour 23, and everytime a NICMOS exposure is scheduled within 50 minutes of coming out of the SAA. The darks will be obtained in parallel in all three NICMOS Cameras. The POST-SAA darks will be non- standard reference files available to users with a USEAFTER date/time mark. The keyword ‘USEAFTER=date/time’ will also be added to the header of each POST-SAA DARK frame. The keyword must be populated with the time, in addition to the date, because HST crosses the SAA ~8 times per day so each POST-SAA DARK will need to have the appropriate time specified, for users to identify the ones they need. Both the raw and processed images will be archived as POST-SAA DARKSs. Generally we expect that all NICMOS science/calibration observations started within 50 minutes of leaving an SAA will need such maps to remove the CR persistence from the science i mages. Each observation will need its own CRMAP, as different SAA passages leave different imprints on the NICMOS detectors.

NIC2 10847

Coronagraphic Polarimetry of HST-Resolved Debris Disks

We propose to take full advantage of the recently commissioned coronagraphic polarimetry modes of ACS and NICMOS to obtain imaging polarimetry of circumstellar debris disks that were imaged previously by the HST coronagraphs, but without the polarizers. It is well established that stars form in gas-rich protostellar disks, and that the planets of our solar system formed from a circum-solar disk. However, the connection between the circumstellar disks that we observe around other stars and the processes of planet formation is still very uncertain. Mid-IR spectral studies have suggested that disk grains are growing in the environments of young stellar objects during the putative planet-formation epoch. Furthermore, structures revealed in well resolved images of circumstellar disks suggest gravitational influences on the disks from co-orbital bodies of planetary mass. Unfortunately, existing imaging data provides only rudimentary information abou the disk grains and their environments. Our proposed observations, which can be obtained only with HST, will enable us to quantitatively determine the sizes of the grains and optical depths as functions of their location within the disks {i.e., detailed tomography}. Armed with these well-determine physical and geometrical systemic parameters, we will develop a set of self- consistent models of disk structures to investigate possible interactions between unseen planets and the disks from which they formed. Our results will also calibrate models of the thermal emission from these disks, that will in turn enable us to infer the properties of other debris disks that cannot be spatially resolved with current or planned instruments and telescopes.

NIC3 11082

NICMOS Imaging of GOODS: Probing the Evolution of the Earliest Massive Galaxies, Galaxies Beyond

Deep near-infrared imaging provides the only avenue towards understanding a host of astrophysical problems, including: finding galaxies and AGN at z > 7, the evolution of the most massive galaxies, the triggering of star formation in dusty galaxies, and revealing properties of obscured AGN. As such, we propose to observe 60 selected areas of the GOODS North and South fields with NICMOS Camera 3 in the F160W band pointed at known massive M > 10^11 M_0 galaxies at z > 2 discovered through deep Spitzer imaging. The depth we will reach {26.5 AB at 5 sigma} in H_160 allows us to study the internal properties of these galaxies, including their sizes and morphologies, and to understand how scaling relations such as the Kormendy relationship evolved. Although NIC3 is out of focus and undersampled, it is currently our best opportunity to study these galaxies, while also sampling enough area to perform a general NIR survey 1/3 the size of an ACS GOODS field. These data will be a significant resource, invaluable for many other science goals, including discovering high redshift galaxies at z > 7, the evolution of galaxies onto the Hubble sequence, as well as examining obscured AGN and dusty star formation at z > 1.5. The GOODS fields are the natural location for HST to perform a deep NICMOS imaging program, as extensive data from space and ground based observatories such as Chandra, GALEX, Spitzer, NOAO, Keck, Subaru, VLT, JCMT, and the VLA are currently available for these regions. Deep high-resolution near-infrared observations are the one missing ingredient to this survey, filling in an important gap to create the deepest, largest, and most uniform data set for studying the faint and distant universe. The importance of these images will increase with time as new facilities come on line, most notably WFC3 and ALMA, and for the planning of future JWST observations.

WFPC2 11023

WFPC2 CYCLE 15 Standard Darks – part 1

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 11031

CTE Background Dependence Closeout

Measuring the charge transfer efficiency {CTE} of an astronomical CCD camera is crucial to determining the CCD’s photometric fidelity across the field of view. WFPC2’s CTE has degraded steadily over the last 13 years because of continuous exposure to trapped particles in HST’s radiation environment. The fraction of photometric signal lost from WFPC2’s CTI {charge transfer inefficiency} is a function of WFPC2’s time in orbit, the integrated signal in the image, the location of the image on the CCD, and the background signal. Routine monitoring of WFPC2’s CTE over the last 13 years permits an assessment of all but the last condition. The dependence of CTE on background signal must be characterized, however, because a large fraction of WFPC2 images have been obtained under conditions of significant sky background. This program aims to assess the end-of-life CTE of WFPC2’s CCDs separately as a function of background signal. Traditional images of an off-center field in NGC 5139 {Omega Cen} are recorded after preflashing {or before postflashing} the CCDs with internal lamps to provide average background signals of 0-160 e-, which span the range of sky backgrounds observed in ~99% of long-exposure narrow- and broad-band WFPC2 images.


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

HSTARS: (None)



                      SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL 

FGS GSacq               09                 09 
FGS REacq               05                 05 
OBAD with Maneuver      26                 26 


SpaceRef staff editor.