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Hubble Space Telescope
The Wide-Field Camera 3 Early Release Science Program


Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) is a panchromatic camera that will be installed in the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) as part of Servicing Mission 4 (SM4). WFC3 has two cameras covering, respectively, ultraviolet and visual wavelengths (200 to 1,000 nm; the UVIS channel) and near-infrared wavelengths (900 to 1,700 nm). Each camera is equipped with a wide range of narrow, medium and broadband filters, together with low-resolution spectroscopic prisms or grisms.

WFC3 was originally conceived in 1997 as a backup instrument to ACS (link to AAS abstract on ADS). As a facility instrument, led by the HST Project, there is no science team. External oversight has been provided by the Science Oversight Committee (SOC), which was originally constituted in 1998. The SOC has therefore been closely involved in the definition, development and characterization of WFC3 since the outset, and the SOC members have acquired a corresponding familiarity with the scientific potential of this instrument. In recognition, the STScI director has allocated ~210 orbits of Director's Discretionary time to the WFC3 SOC for challenging science programs designed to test key capabilities of both the UVIS and IR channels.

The Science Program

The WFC3 SOC has developed a science program that focuses on the theme "Star Formation, Near and Far". The observations fall under two broad categories. The first category includes a series of multi-waveband imaging observations that target star-forming regions in nearby galaxies, ranging from 30 Doradus in the Large Magellanic Cloud to M82, the nearest starburst galaxy. The second arm of the program probes star formation at intermediate redshifts  (1 < z < 2) through moderately deep multi-wavelength imaging and low-resolution spectroscopy covering ~30% of the GOODS Chandra Deep Field South. Both programs build on previous ACS observations and use the panchromatic capabilities of WFC3 to extend coverage to ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths.

An overview of the scientific rationale underlying the full observing program is given in this PDF file (very large), an updated version of a presentation made to the Space Telescope Users Committee (STUC) in April 2007. Further details of the observations are given in the Phase I proposals, linked from here Nearby Galaxies and here GOODS CDFS.

The Data

Data taken for the WFC3 ERS program are non-proprietary, and will therefore be available immediately to the wider astronomical community. Moreover, while archival programs to analyze WFC3 ERS data alone will not be permitted until Cycle 18, Cycle 17 GO or AR programs can propose to analyze WFC3 ERS data in conjunction with other datasets. Targets listed in the WFC3 ERS program have the same priority as GTO targets with regard to duplication by Cycle 17 GO programs; that is, GO programs will not be permitted to obtain observations on the same field centers with the same filters and comparable integration times without specific scientific justification of duplication.


Chair: Robert O'Connell, University of Virginia


Last Updated: January 13, 2010.
B. Blacker