This week on HST

HST Programs: September 1 - September 7, 2008

Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title Links
11135 Mariska Kriek, Universiteit Leiden Extreme makeovers: Tracing the transformation of massive galaxies at z~2.5 Abstract
11156 Kathy Rages, SETI Institute Monitoring Active Atmospheres on Uranus and Neptune Abstract
11178 William M. Grundy, Lowell Observatory Probing Solar System History with Orbits, Masses, and Colors of Transneptunian Binaries Abstract
11201 Nitya Kallivayalil, Harvard University Systemic and Internal motions of the Magellanic Clouds: Third Epoch Images Abstract
11203 Kevin Luhman, The Pennsylvania State University A Search for Circumstellar Disks and Planetary-Mass Companions around Brown Dwarfs in Taurus Abstract
11205 James Muzerolle, University of Arizona The Effects of Multiplicity on the Evolution of Young Stellar Objects: A NICMOS Imaging Study Abstract
11212 Douglas R. Gies, Georgia State University Research Foundation Filling the Period Gap for Massive Binaries Abstract
11219 Alessandro Capetti, Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino Active Galactic Nuclei in nearby galaxies: a new view of the origin of the radio-loud radio-quiet dichotomy? Abstract
11235 Jason A. Surace, California Institute of Technology HST NICMOS Survey of the Nuclear Regions of Luminous Infrared Galaxies in the Local Universe Abstract
11298 John P. Subasavage, Georgia State University Research Calibrating Cosmological Chronometers: White Dwarf Masses Abstract
11544 Adam L. Kraus, California Institute of Technology The Dynamical Legacy of Star Formation Abstract
11547 Dimitrios Gouliermis, Max-Planck-Institut fur Astronomie, Heidelberg Characterizing Pre-Main Sequence Populations in Stellar Associations of the Large Magellanic Cloud Abstract
11548 S. Thomas Megeath, University of Toledo NICMOS Imaging of Protostars in the Orion A Cloud: The Role of Environment in Star Formation Abstract
11553 Howard Bond, Space Telescope Science Institute HST Imaging of the Luminous Transient in NGC 300 Abstract

Some selected highlights

GO 11178: Probing Solar System History with Orbits, Masses, and Colors of Transneptunian Binaries

Preliminary orbital determination for the KBO WW31, based on C. Veillet's analysis of CFHT observations; the linked image shows the improved orbital derivation, following the addition of HST imaging The Kuiper Belt consists of icy planetoids that orbit the Sun within a broad band stretching from Neptune's orbit (~30 AU) to distance sof ~50 AU from the Sun (see David Jewitt's Kuiper Belt page for details). Over 500 KBOs (or trans-Neptunian objects, TNOs) are currently known out of a population of perhaps 70,000 objects with diameters exceeding 100 km. Approximately 2% of the known KBOs are binary (including Pluto, one of the largest known KBOs, regardless of whether one considers it a planet or not). This is a surprisingly high fraction, given the difficulties involved in forming such systems and the relative ease with which they can be disrupted. It remains unclear whether these systems formed from single KBOs (through collisions or 3-body interactions) as the Kuiper Belt and the Solar System have evolved, or whether they represent the final tail of an initial (much larger) population of primordial binaries. These issues can be addressed, at least in part, through deriving a better understanding of the composition of KBOs - and those properties can be deduced by measuring the orbital parameters for binary systems. The present proposal will use the Planetary camera on WFPC2 to determine the relative orbits for several known KBO binaries. Just as with binary stars, the orbital period and semi-major axis give the total system mass, while the mid-infrared properties (measured by Spitzer) allow an assessment of the surface area/diameters; combining these measurements gives an estimate of the mean density.

GO 11201: Systemic and Internal motions of the Magellanic Clouds: Third Epoch Images

The Large Magellanic Cloud (upper left) with the Small Magellanic Cloud (right) and the (foreground) Galactic globular cluster47 Tucanae The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) are the most massive satellites of the Milky Way galaxy. The orbital motions of these systems can be used to probe the mass distribution of Milky Way, and backtracking the orbits can shed light on how the three systems have interacted, In particular, the well known Magellanic Stream, stretching between the two Clouds, is thought to be a product either of interactions between the Clouds, or of ram-stripping of gas from the LMC on its last passage through the Plane of the Milky Way. The present program builds on observations obtained at two epochs with the now-defunct (but perhaps soon to be revived) ACS High Resolution Camera (ACS/HRC). The previous programs targeted known QSOs lying behind the Clouds; the QSOs serve as fixed reference points for absoltue astrometry of the numerous foreground LMC/SMC stars. First epoch observations were made in late 2002 (GO 9462), with the follow-up imaging in late 2004 (GO 10130). The tangential motions of the Clouds amount to only a few milliarcseconds, but the high spatial resolution and high stability of HST imaging makes such measurements possible, even with only a 2-year baseline. Surprisingly, the initial results suggest that the 3-D motions of both clouds are much higher than expected, suggesting either that the LMC/SMC/MW is either dynamically very young, or unbound. The present program will use WFPC2 to obtain third-epoch data in the same fields, providjng a crucial test of the initial results

GO 11203: The Effects of Multiplicity on the Evolution of Young Stellar Objects: A NICMOS Imaging Study

Optical image of the M78/NGC2068/NGC2071 region within the Orion B molecular cloud Most solar-type stars reside in binary systems. The classic observational survey by Duquennoy and Mayor in the early 1990s suggests that 70-80% of sun-like stars have at least one stellar companion. Clearly, it is important to understand the influence those companions may have exerted on potential planetary systems. This observing program focuses on that questions through observations of young stellar objects located in a star-forming filament near NGC 2068 within the Orion B molecular cloud. These objects show a wide range of morphologies, ranging from deeply embedded sources to moderately evolved (~10 Myr) T Tauri systems. The aim is to use NICMOS observations to determine the detailed structure of the circumstellar material and any outflows, and particularly search for evidence for binary companions. The observations should be capable of detecting companions exceeding 0.1 solar masses at separations exceeding 50 AU.

GO 11298: Calibrating Cosmological Chronometers: White Dwarf Masses

HST image of the white dwarf companion to Sirius - which isn't a target of the present program White dwarfs are the evolutionary end point for most stars with masses less than ~7 MSun. These compact degenerate objects lack any internal heat source, and therefore gradually cool from their initial temperatures of ~100,000-200,000K. As they cool, the luminosity decreases from Mbol ~ 2-3 (for the immediate post-PN object) to Mbol ~ 17 (for 10-12 Gyr-old Galactic halo white dwarfs). The rate of cooling can be predicted using sophisticated models of white dwarf interiors. These models show that the rates are mass dependent, but the overwhelming majority of field white dwarfs are expected to have masses in the range 0.6-0.7 MSun, reflecting the steep slope to the IMF above ~1 MSun (high mass stars are rare, so high mass remnants, like Sirius B, are also rare). Confirming that hypothesis demands reliable mass measurements for individual white dwarfs. Fortunately, a number of white dwarfs are known in binary systems, and a subset of those systems are close enough to each other and to the Sun that their orbits can be mapped (and hence their dynamical masses determined) using the Fine Guidance Sensors on HST. The present program targets 4 white dwarf/white dwarf binary systems.

Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 18/5/2008