This week on HST

HST Programs: October 27 - November 2, 2008

HST resumed operations on the side B electronics on the CU/SDF (Command Unit/Science Data Formatter) on 23 October 2008. WFPC2 calibration measurements and on-sky observations restarted on October 25th, and the ACS/SBC will be brought on line later this week.

Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title Links
11103 Harald Ebeling, University of Hawaii A Snapshot Survey of The Most Massive Clusters of Galaxies Abstract
11113 Keith S. Noll, Space Telescope Science Institute Binaries in the Kuiper Belt: Probes of Solar System Formation and Evolution Abstract
11130 Luis Ho, Carnegie Institution of Washington AGNs with Intermediate-mass Black Holes: Testing the Black Hole-Bulge Paradigm, Part II Abstract
11212 Filling the Period Gap for Massive Binaries Douglas R. Gies, Georgia State University Research Foundation Abstract
11213 Gerard T. van Belle, California Institute of Technology Distances to Eclipsing M Dwarf Binaries Abstract
11289 Jean-Paul Kneib, Laboratoire d'Astronomie Spatiale SL2S: The Strong Lensing Legacy Survey Abstract
11299 Todd J. Henry, Georgia State University Research Foundation Calibrating the Mass-Luminosity Relation at the End of the Main Sequence Abstract
11704 Brian Chaboyer, Dartmouth College The Ages of Globular Clusters and the Population II Distance Scale Abstract
11788 George Fritz Benedict, University of Texas at Austin The Architecture of Exoplanetary Systems Abstract
11901 Filling the Period Gap for Massive Binaries Douglas R. Gies, Georgia State University Research Foundation Abstract
11902 Different responses in interacting galaxies Mario Livio, Space Telescope Science Institute Abstract

Selected highlights

GO 11113: Binaries in the Kuiper Belt: Probes of Solar System Formation and Evolution

A composite of HST images of the Kuiper Belt binary, WW31 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 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. This proposal will use WFPC2 imaging of known KBOs to identify new binary systems.

GO 11213: Distances to Eclipsing M Dwarf Binaries

Artist's impression of a cool binary system Eclipsing binaries are stellar systems where the orbital plane lies in the line of sight, leading to the components undergoing mutual eclipses. These systems are extremely powerful probes of stellar properties, since (given the appropriate radial velocity measurements) they permit direct measurement of both stellar masses and radii. Accurate distances can also be derived from these systems. These results are particularly interesting for stars near the bottom of the main sequence, approaching the hydrogen buyrning limit. The present program aims to use the Fine Guidance Sensors on HST to determine sub-milliarcsecond trigonometric parallaxes for five M-dwarf binaries: YY Gem, GU Boo, CM Dra, NSVS0103 and TRES-HER0-R

GO 11289: SL2S - The Strong Lensing Legacy Survey

ACS images of galaxy-galaxy Einstein ring lenses from the Sloan survey Gravitational lensing is a consequence the theory of general relativity. Its importance as an astrophysical tool first became apparent with the realisation (in 1979) that the quasar pair Q0957+561 actually comprised two lensed images of the same background quasar. In the succeeding years, lensing has been used primarily to probe the mass distribution of galaxy clusters, using theoretical models to analyse the arcs and arclets that are produced by strong lensing of background galaxies, and the large-scale mass distribution, through analysis of weak lensing effects on galaxy morphologies. Gravitational lensing can also be used to investigate the mass distribution of individual galaxies. Until recently, the most common background sources were quasars. Galaxy-galaxy lenses, however, offer a distinct advantage, since the background source is extended, and therefore imposes a stronger constraints on the mass distribution of the lensing galaxy than a point-source QSO. The CFHT Legacy survey provides a powerful tool for identifying candidate galaxy-galaxy lenses. Optical ground-based imaging, even from Hawaii, cannot match the results from a 2.4-metre telescope in orbit. Thus, the present program is using WFPC2 imaging to verify the nature of those candidates. The high resolution images can then be analysed to model the underlying mass distribution.

GO 11704: The Ages of Globular Clusters and the Population II Distance Scale

Hubble Heritage image of the globular cluster, M15 Globular clusters are the oldest structures within the Milky Way that are directly accessible to observation. They are relatively simple systems, with relatively simple colour-magnitude diagrams (albeit with some complexities adduced from recent HST observations, see GO 11233 ). Matching those CMDs against theoretical models allows us to set constraints on the age of the oldest stars in the Galaxy, and hence on the age of the Milky Way and the epoch of galaxy formation. However, the accuracy of those age determinations rest crucially on the accuracy of the cluster distance determinations. The clusters themselves lie at distances of several kpc at best, and tens of kpc at worst; thus, direct trigonometric parallax measurements must await microacrsecond astrometric missions. The classical method of deriving distances is main sequence fitting - using nearby stars, with similar chemical abundances and accurate parallax measurements, to map out the main sequence in absolute units, and then scaling the clusetr data to fit. The problem with this method is that metal-poor subdwarfs are rare, so even Hipparcos was only able to obtain accurate distances to a handful of stars. The present program aims to improve the distance measurements by using the Fine Guidance Sensors on HST to determine sub-millarcsecond trigonometric parallaxes to 9 subdwarfs, almost doubling the sample available for MS fitting.

Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 1/10/2008