Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Status Report #4656

By SpaceRef Editor
July 25, 2008
Filed under , ,


Continuing to collect World Class Science

PERIOD COVERED: 5am July 18 – 5am July 21, 2008 (DOY 200/0900z-203/0900z)


NIC1/NIC2/NIC3 8795

NICMOS Post-SAA Calibration – CR Persistence Part 6

A new procedure proposed to alleviate the CR-persistence problem of NICMOS. Dark frames will be obtained immediately upon exiting the SAA contour 23, and every time 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 images. Each observation will need its own CRMAP, as different SAA passages leave different imprints on the NICMOS detectors.

NIC2 11547

Characterizing Pre-Main Sequence Populations in Stellar Associations of the Large Magellanic Cloud

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) offers an extremely rich sample of resolved low-mass stars (below 1 Solar Mass) in the act of formation that has not been explored sufficiently yet. These pre-main sequence (PMS) stars provide a unique snapshot of the star formation process, as it is being recorded for the last ~20 Myr, and they give important information on the low-mass Initial Mass Function (IMF) of their host stellar systems. Studies of young, rich LMC clusters like 30 Doradus are crowding limited, even at the angular resolution facilitated by HST in the optical. To learn more about low-mass PMS stars in the LMC, one has to study less crowded regions like young stellar associations. We propose to employ WFPC2 to obtain deep photometry (V ~ 25.5 mag) of four selected LMC stellar associations in order to perform an original optical analysis of their red PMS and blue bright MS stellar populations. With these observations we aim at a comprehensive study, which will add substantial information on the most recent star formation and the IMF in the LMC. The data reduction and analysis will be performed with a 2D photometry software package especially developed by us for WFPC2 imaging of extended stellar associations with variable background. Our targets have been selected optimizing a combination of criteria, namely spatial resolution, crowding, low extinction, nebular contamination, and background confusion in comparison to other regions in the Local Group. Parallel NICMOS imaging will provide additional information on near-infrared properties of the stellar population in the regions surrounding these systems.

NIC3 11545

A NICMOS Survey of Newly-Discovered Young Massive Clusters

We are on the cusp of a revolution in massive star research triggered by 2MASS and Spitzer/GLIMPSE, and now is the ideal time to capitalize on these projects by performing the first survey of massive stars in young stellar clusters throughout the Galactic plane. A search of the 2MASS and GLIMPSE surveys has produced over 450 newly-identified massive stellar cluster candidates in the Galactic plane which are hidden from our view at optical wavelengths due to extinction. Here we propose a program of 29 orbits to image the most promising candidate clusters in broad and narrow band filters using HST/NICMOS. We will be complementing these observations with approved Spitzer and Chandra programs, numerous approved and planned ground-based spectroscopic observations, and state-of-the-art modeling. We expect to substantially increase the numbers of massive stars known in the Galaxy, including main sequence OB stars and post-main sequence stars in the Red Supergiant, Luminous Blue Variable and Wolf-Rayet stages. Ultimately, this programme will address many of the fundamental topics in astrophysics: the slope to the initial mass function (IMF), an upper-limit to the masses of stars, the formation and evolution of the most massive stars, gamma-ray burst (GRB) progenitors, the chemical enrichment of the interstellar medium, and nature of the first stars in the Universe.

NIC3 11333

NICMOS Non-linearity tests

This program incorporates a number of tests to analyze the count rate dependent non-linearity seen in NICMOS spectro-photometric observations.

We will observe a field with stars of a range in luminosity in NGC3603 with NICMOS in NIC1: F090M, F110W, F140W, F160W NIC2: F110W, F160W, F187W, F205W, and F222M NIC3: F110W, F150W, F160W, F175W, and F222M. We will repeat the observations with flatfield lamp on, creating artificially high count-rates, allowing tests of NICMOS linearity as function of count rate. We first take exposures with the lamp off, then exposures with the lamp on, and repeat at the end with lamp off. Finally, we continue with taking darks during occultation.

We will furthermore observe spectro-photometric standard P041C using the G096, G141, and G206 grisms in NIC3, and repeat the lamp off/on/off test to artificially create a high background.

ACS/SBC 11324

UV Contamination Monitor

The observations consist of imaging and spectroscopy with SBC of the cluster NGC 6681 in order to monitor the temporal evolution of the UV sensitivity of the SBC.

WFPC2 11235

HST NICMOS Survey of the Nuclear Regions of Luminous Infrared Galaxies in the Local Universe

At luminosities above 10^11.4 L_sun, the space density of far-infrared selected galaxies exceeds that of optically selected galaxies. These `luminous infrared galaxies’ {LIRGs} are primarily interacting or merging disk galaxies undergoing enhanced star formation and Active Galactic Nuclei {AGN} activity, possibly triggered as the objects transform into massive S0 and elliptical merger remnants. We propose NICMOS NIC2 imaging of the nuclear regions of a complete sample of 88 L_IR > 10^11.4 L_sun luminous infrared galaxies in the IRAS Revised Bright Galaxy Sample {RBGS: i.e., 60 micron flux density > 5.24 Jy}. This sample is ideal not only in its completeness and sample size, but also in the proximity and brightness of the galaxies. The superb sensitivity and resolution of NICMOS NIC2 on HST enables a unique opportunity to study the detailed structure of the nuclear regions, where dust obscuration may mask star clusters, AGN and additional nuclei from optical view, with a resolution significantly higher than possible with Spitzer IRAC. This survey thus provides a crucial component to our study of the dynamics and evolution of IR galaxies presently underway with Wide-Field, HST ACS/WFC and Spitzer IRAC observations of these 88 galaxies. Imaging will be done with the F160W filter {H-band} to examine as a function of both luminosity and merger stage {i} the luminosity and distribution of embedded star clusters, {ii} the presence of optically obscured AGN and nuclei, {iii} the correlation between the distribution of 1.6 micron emission and the mid-IR emission as detected by Spitzer IRAC, {iv} the evidence of bars or bridges that may funnel fuel into the nuclear region, and {v} the ages of star clusters for which photometry is available via ACS/WFC observations. The NICMOS data, combined with the HST ACS, Spitzer, and GALEX observations of this sample, will result in the most comprehensive study of merging and interacting galaxies to date.

NIC2 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.

FGS 11212

Filling the Period Gap for Massive Binaries

The current census of binaries among the massive O-type stars is seriously incomplete for systems in the period range from years to millennia because the radial velocity variations are too small and the angular separations too close for easy detection. Here we propose to discover binaries in this observational gap through a Faint Guidance Sensor SNAP survey of relatively bright targets listed in the Galactic O Star Catalog. Our primary goal is to determine the binary frequency among those in the cluster/association, field, and runaway groups. The results will help us assess the role of binaries in massive star formation and in the processes that lead to the ejection of massive stars from their natal clusters. The program will also lead to the identification of new, close binaries that will be targets of long term spectroscopic and high angular resolution observations to determine their masses and distances. The results will also be important for the interpretation of the spectra of suspected and newly identified binary and multiple systems.

WFPC2 11206

At the Cradle of the Milky Way: Formation of the Most Massive Field Disk Galaxies at z>1

We propose to obtain 2 orbit WFPC2 F814W images of a sample of the 15 most massive galaxies found at $1 < z < 1.3$. These were culled from over 20,000 Keck spectra collected as part of DEEP and are unique among high redshift massive galaxy samples in being kinematically selected. Through a recent HST NICMOS-2 imaging program {GO-10532}, we have confirmed that these galaxies have regular stellar disks, and their emission line kinematics are not due to gradients from merging components. These potentially very young galaxies are likely precursors to massive local disks, assuming no further merging. The proposed WFPC2 and existing NIC-2 data provide colors, stellar masses, and ages of bulge and disk subcomponents, to assess whether old stellar bulges and disks are in place at that time or still being built, and constrain their formation epochs. Finally, this sample will yield the first statistically significant results on the $z > 1$ evolution of the size-velocity-luminosity scaling relations, for massive galaxies at different wavelengths, and constrain whether this evolution reflects stellar mass growth, or passive evolution, of either bulge or disk components.

WFPC2 11202

The Structure of Early-type Galaxies: 0.1-100 Effective Radii

The structure, formation and evolution of early-type galaxies is still largely an open problem in cosmology: how does the Universe evolve from large linear scales dominated by dark matter to the highly non-linear scales of galaxies, where baryons and dark matter both play important, interacting, roles? To understand the complex physical processes involved in their formation scenario, and why they have the tight scaling relations that we observe today {e.g. the Fundamental Plane}, it is critically important not only to understand their stellar structure, but also their dark-matter distribution from the smallest to the largest scales. Over the last three years the SLACS collaboration has developed a toolbox to tackle these issues in a unique and encompassing way by combining new non-parametric strong lensing techniques, stellar dynamics, and most recently weak gravitational lensing, with high-quality Hubble Space Telescope imaging and VLT/Keck spectroscopic data of early-type lens systems. This allows us to break degeneracies that are inherent to each of these techniques separately and probe the mass structure of early-type galaxies from 0.1 to 100 effective radii. The large dynamic range to which lensing is sensitive allows us both to probe the clumpy substructure of these galaxies, as well as their low-density outer haloes. These methods have convincingly been demonstrated, by our team, using smaller pilot-samples of SLACS lens systems with HST data. In this proposal, we request observing time with WFPC2 and NICMOS to observe 53 strong lens systems from SLACS, to obtain complete multi-color imaging for each system. This would bring the total number of SLACS lens systems to 87 with completed HST imaging and effectively doubles the known number of galaxy-scale strong lenses. The deep HST images enable us to fully exploit our new techniques, beat down low- number statistics, and probe the structure and evolution of early-type galaxies, not only with a uniform data-set an order of magnitude larger than what is available now, but also with a fully coherent and self-consistent methodological approach!

NIC2 11197

Sweeping Away the Dust: Reliable Dark Energy with an Infrared Hubble Diagram

We propose building a high-z Hubble Diagram using type Ia supernovae observed in the infrared rest-frame J-band. The infrared has a number of exceptional properties. The effect of dust extinction is minimal, reducing a major systematic that may be biasing dark energy measurements. Also, recent work indicates that type Ia supernovae are true standard candles in the infrared meaning that our Hubble diagram will be resistant to possible evolution in the Phillip’s relation over cosmic time. High signal-to-noise measurements of 16 type Ia events at z~0.4 will be compared with an independent optical Hubble diagram from the ESSENCE project to test for a shift in the derived dark energy equation of state due to a systematic bias. In Cycle 15 we obtained NICMOS photometry of 8 ESSENCE supernovae and are awaiting template observations to place them on the IR Hubble diagram. Here we request another 8 supernovae be studied in the final season of the ESSENCE search. Because of the bright sky background, H-band photometry of z~0.4 supernovae is not feasible from the ground. Only the superb image quality and dark infrared sky seen by HST makes this test possible. This experiment may also lead to a better, more reliable way of mapping the expansion history of the universe with the Joint Dark Energy Mission.

NIC1/NIC2 11172

Defining Classes of Long Period Variable Stars in M31

We propose a thrifty but information-packed investigation {1440 exposures total} with NICMOS F205W, 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 WFPC2 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, and allow us to confirm the microlensing nature of a large sample of candidate lensed sources in M31. 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, 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.

WFPC2 11156

Monitoring Active Atmospheres on Uranus and Neptune

We propose Snapshot observations of Uranus and Neptune to monitor changes in their atmospheres on time scales of weeks and months. Uranus equinox is only months away, in December 2007. Hubble Space Telescope observations during the past several years {Hammel et al. 2005, Icarus 175, 284 and references therein} have revealed strongly wavelength-dependent latitudinal structure, the presence of numerous visible-wavelength cloud features in the northern hemisphere, at least one very long-lived discrete cloud in the southern hemisphere, and in 2006 the first dark spot ever seen on Uranus. Long-term ground-based observations {Lockwood and Jerzekiewicz, 2006, Icarus 180, 442; Hammel and Lockwood 2007, Icarus 186, 291} reveal seasonal brightness changes whose origins are not well understood. Recent near-IR images of Neptune obtained using adaptive optics on the Keck Telescope, together with HST observations {Sromovsky et al. 2003, Icarus 163, 256 and references therein} which include previous Snapshot programs {GO 8634, 10170, 10534} show a general increase in activity at south temperate latitudes until 2004, when Neptune returned to a rather Voyager-like appearance. Further Snapshot observations of these two dynamic planets will elucidate the nature of long-term changes in their zonal atmospheric bands and clarify the processes of formation, evolution, and dissipation of discrete albedo features.

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.

NIC3 11107

Imaging of Local Lyman Break Galaxy Analogs: New Clues to Galaxy Formation in the Early Universe

We have used the ultraviolet all-sky imaging survey currently being conducted by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer {GALEX} to identify for the first time a rare population of low-redshift starbursts with properties remarkably similar to high-redshift Lyman Break Galaxies {LBGs}. These “compact UV luminous galaxies” {UVLGs} resemble LBGs in terms of size, SFR, surface brightness, mass, metallicity, kinematics, dust, and color. The UVLG sample offers the unique opportunity of investigating some very important properties of LBGs that have remained virtually inaccessible at high redshift: their morphology and the mechanism that drives their star formation. Therefore, in Cycle 15 we have imaged 7 UVLGs using ACS in order to 1} characterize their morphology and look for signs of interactions and mergers, and 2} probe their star formation histories over a variety of timescales. The images show a striking trend of small-scale mergers turning large amounts of gas into vigorous starbursts {a process referred to as dissipational or “wet” merging}. Here, we propose to complete our sample of 31 LBG analogs using the ACS/SBC F150LP {FUV} and WFPC2 F606W {R} filters in order to create a statistical sample to study the mechanism that triggers star formation in UVLGs and its implications for the nature of LBGs. Specifically, we will 1} study the trend between galaxy merging and SFR in UVLGs, 2} artificially redshift the FUV images to z=1-4 and compare morphologies with those in similarly sized samples of LBGs at the same rest- frame wavelengths in e.g. GOODS, UDF, and COSMOS, 3} determine the presence and morphology of significant stellar mass in “pre-burst” stars, and 4} study their immediate environment. Together with our Spitzer {IRAC+MIPS}, GALEX, SDSS and radio data, the HST observations will form a unique union of data that may for the first time shed light on how the earliest major episodes of star formation in high redshift galaxies came about. This proposal was adapted from an ACS HRC+WFC proposal to meet the new Cycle 16 observing constraints, and can be carried out using the ACS/SBC and WFPC2 without compromising our original science goals.


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

HSTARS: (None)



                                 SCHEDULED      SUCCESSFUL

FGS GSacq                        28                   28
FGS REacq                        13                   13
OBAD with Maneuver               80                   80


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