This week on HST

HST Programs: July 13 - July 19, 2009

SMOV still under way, but first science observations being made.

Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title Links
11212 Douglas R. Gies, Georgia State University Research Foundation Filling the Period Gap for Massive Binaries Abstract
11670 Peter Garnavich, University of Notre Dame The Host Environments of Type Ia Supernovae in the SDSS Survey 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

Selected highlights

GO 11670: The Host Environments of Type Ia Supernovae in the SDSS Survey

SN 2007uy and 2008D in NGC 2770 Supernovae have long attracted the attention of both amateur and professional astronomers in their own right, as a means of studying the violent eruption and death of massive stars and degenerates. However, in the last decade they have also acquired considerable importance as distance indicators, tracing the expansion of the universe to redshifts well beyond the reach of more conventional yardsticks, such as cepheids, and providing a key underpinning for the hypothesised existcen of dark energy. Understanding the supernovae themselves, and, in particular, their progenitors, is key to accurately interpreting their luminosities and distances. The present program aims to tackle that aspect of the problem by using ACS to obtain deep, high resolution images of galaxies that have harboured recent type Ia supernovae. The targets are all drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has uncovered more than than 500 type Ia supernovae,. The supernovae themselves are long gone from view, but the ACS data will be used to probe the stellar populations in the immediate vicinity of the explosion, and hence gain a better understanding of the likely progenitor.

GO 11788: The Architecture of Exoplanetary Systems

Artist's impression of a young planetary system Immanuel Kant is generally credited with first proposing that the planets in the Solar System coalesced from a flat, rotating disk formed by the Solar Nebula. Direct confirmation of that process only came in the early 1990s, when millimetre-wave interferometers were able to detect molecular gas in Keplerian rotation around a handful of nearby young stars. Since then, there have been numerous other observations, including Hubble's images of proplyds (protoplanetary disks) in the Orion Cluster, and Hubble and Spitzer observations of edge-on disks in other young stars. One of the clear selling points of the Solar Nebula disk model is that it appears to offer a natural path to forming planets with coplanar orbits, matching (most of) our observations of the Solar System. On the other hand, as our knowledge of exoplanetary systems has accumulated over the last decade, it has become clear that dynamical interactions may play a very important role in the evolution of these systems. In particular, disk/planet interactions are generally regarded as responsible for the inward migration of gas giants to form hot Jupiters in <3 day period orbits. Planet-planet interactions could lead to significant changes in orbital inclination. Radial velocity planet searches are uncovering more and more multi-planet systems. This program focuses the high precision of HST's astrometric detectors, the Fine Guidance Sensors, on four of those systems. The aim is to complement the existing radial velocity measurements with sub-milliarcsecond precision astrometry, allowing determination of the true orbital paths - specifically, the relative inclination - of the low-mass objects in these systems.

Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 30/3/2009