This week on HST

HST Programs: October 19 - October 25, 2009

Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title Links
11108 Esther M. Hu, University of Hawaii Near Infrared Observations of a Sample of z~6.5-6.7 Galaxies Abstract
11142 Lin Yan, California Institute of Technology Revealing the Physical Nature of Infrared Luminous Galaxies at 0.3 Abstract
11148 John Henry Debes, Carnegie Institution of Washington High Contrast Imaging of Dusty White Dwarfs Abstract
11202 Leon Koopmans, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute The Structure of Early-type Galaxies: 0.1-100 Effective Radii Abstract
11360 Robert W. O'Connell, The University of Virginia Star Formation in Nearby Galaxies 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
11565 Sebastien Lepine, American Museum of Natural History A search for astrometric companions to very low-mass, Population II stars Abstract
11606 Dan Batcheldor,Rochester Institute of Technology Dynamical Hypermassive Black Hole Masses Abstract
11630 Kathy Rages, SETI Institute Monitoring Active Atmospheres on Uranus and Neptune Abstract
11644 Michael E. Brown, California Institute of Technology A dynamical-compositional survey of the Kuiper belt: a new window into the formation of the outer solar system Abstract
11653 Robert Kirshner, Harvard University SAINTS - Supernova 1987A INTensive Survey Abstract
11657 Letizia Stanghellini, National Optical Astronomy Observatories The population of compact planetary nebulae in the Galactic Disk Abstract
11688 Luigi Bedin, Space Telescope Science Institute Exploring the Bottom End of the White Dwarf Cooling Sequence in the Open Cluster NGC6819 Abstract
11707 Kailash Sahu, Space Telescope Science Institute Detecting Isolated Black Holes through Astrometric Microlensing Abstract
11730 Nitya Jacob Kallivayalil, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Continued Proper Motions of the Magellanic Clouds: Orbits, Internal Kinematics, and Distance Abstract
11737 David M. Meyer, Northwestern University The Distance Dependence of the Interstellar N/O Abundance Ratio: A Gould Belt Influence? Abstract
11784 Jesus Maiz Apellaniz, Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia (IAA) The orbit of the most massive known astrometric binary Abstract
11785 Howard E. Bond, Space Telescope Science Institute Trigonometric Calibration of the Distance Scale for Classical Novae Abstract
11788 George Fritz Benedict, University of Texas at Austin The Architecture of Exoplanetary Systems Abstract
11789 George Fritz Benedict, University of Texas at Austin An Astrometric Calibration of Population II Distance Indicators Abstract
11791 C. S. Kochanek, The Ohio State University Research Foundation /td> The Wavelength Dependence of Accretion Disk Structure Abstract
11835 Mark Birkinshaw, University of Bristol The multi-faceted X-ray activity of low-redshift active galaxies Abstract
11838 Herman L. Marshall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Completing a Flux-limited Survey for X-ray Emission from Radio Jets Abstract
11840 Andrew J. Levan, The University of Warwick Identifying the host galaxies for optically dark gamma-ray bursts Abstract

Selected highlights

GO 11148: High Contrast Imaging of Dusty White Dwarfs

Artist's impression of a comet spiralling in to the white dwarf variable, G29-38 During the 1980s, one of the techniques used to search for brown dwarfs was to obtain near-infrared photometry of white dwarf stars. Pioneered by Ron Probst (KPNO), the idea rests on the fact that while white dwarfs are hot (5,000 to 15,000K for the typcal target), they are also small (Earth-sized), so they have low luminosities; consequently, a low-mass companion should be detected as excess flux at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths. In 1988, Ben Zuckerman and Eric Becklin detected just this kind of excess around G29-38, a relatively hot DA (hydrogen line) white dwarf that also happens to lie on the WD instability strip. However, follow-up observations showed that the excess peaked at longer wavelengths than would be expected for a white dwarf; rather, G 29-38 is surrounded by a dusty disk. Given the orbital lifetimes, those dust particles must be regularly replenished, presumably from rocky remnants of a solar system. G 29-38 stood as a lone prototype for almost 2 decades, until a handful of other dusty white dwarfs were identified from Spitzer observations within the last couple of years. The present program will use NICMOS coronagraphic imaging to search for further examples.

GO 11644: A dynamical-compositional survey of the Kuiper belt: a new window into the formation of the outer solar system

The view from Sedna: an artist's impression The Kuiper Belt lies beyond the orbit of Neptune, extending from ~30 AU to ~50 AU from the Sun, and includes at least 70,000 objects with diameters exceeding 100 km. Setting aside Pluto, the first trans-Neptunian objects were discovered in the early 1990s. Most are relatively modest in size, with diameters of a few hundred km and photometric properties that suggested an icy composition, similar to Pluto and its main satellite, Charon. Over the last three years, a handful of substantially larger bodies have been discovered, with diameters of more than 1000 km; one of the objects, 2003 UB313, is comparable in size to Pluto (2320 km.). At the same time, ground-based surveys, such as the Deep Ecliptic Survey, the Canada-France Ecliptic plane Survey and the Palomar Quest Survey, scanned the ecliptic for fainter, lower-mass objects, with the aim of using their properties to assess the likely chemical composition and dynamical history of the early Solar System. The present program will use Wide Field Camera 3 to push up to 2 magnitudes fainter than these ground-based studies, providing reliable estimates of compositions for a representative sample of KBOs.
GO 11730: Continued Proper Motions of the Magellanic Clouds: Orbits, Internal Kinematics, and Distance

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 three previous epochs with the now-defunct ACS High Resolution Camera (ACS/HRC) and, in Cycle 16, with the Planetary camera on WFPC2. The previous programs targeted known QSOs lying behind the Clouds; the QSOs serve as fixed reference points for absolute 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) and 2007/2008 (GO 11201). 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 WFC3 to obtain fourth-epoch data in the same fields, providing a further crucial test of the initial results

GO 11791: The Wavelength Dependence of Accretion Disk Structure

The first Einstein cross, the gravitational lensed QSO, G2237+0305 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 to probe the mass distributions on a variety of scales: of galaxies (primarily via multiply-imaged quasars); of galaxy clusters (arcs and arclets); and at the largest scales (weak lensing). However, lensing can also provide insight on the small-scale properties of the object being lensed. In a lensed QSO, the light from the QSO follows different paths to produce the separate images; each of those paths has a different length; consequently, flux variations in the source show up at different times in the separate images. The present program aims to take advantage of this property to probe the structure of the accretion disks surrounding the central black hole in a number of lensed QSOs. The program will combine ultraviolet observations with the WFC3/UVIS camera on HST with Chandra X-ray data. Studying the variation as a function of wavelength should probe the accretion disk structure, since light from the inner regions are expected to dominate at shorter wavelengths, while the outer regions dominate at longer wavelengths.

Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 23/9/2009