This week on HST


HST Programs: December 30, 2013 - January 5, 2014

Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title
12880 Adam Riess, The Johns Hopkins University The Hubble Constant: Completing HST's Legacy with WFC3
12970 Michael C. Cushing, University of Toledo Completing the Census of Ultracool Brown Dwarfs in the Solar Neighborhood using HST/WFC3
13035 Sarah V. Badman, Lancaster University A unique opportunity to discover how energy is transported through Jupiter's magnetosphere
13117 Andrew J. Levan, The University of Warwick A Chandra/HST survey of dark gamma-ray bursts and their hosts
13295 Soeren S. Larsen, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen Do the globular clusters in the Fornax dSph have multiple stellar populations?
13297 Giampaolo Piotto, Universita degli Studi di Padova The HST Legacy Survey of Galactic Globular Clusters: Shedding UV Light on Their Populations and Formation
13306 Gillian Wilson, University of California - Riverside Is the Size Evolution of Massive Galaxies Accelerated in Cluster Environments?
13324 Davor Krajnovic, Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam Where cores are no more: assessing the role of dissipation in the assembly of early-type galaxies
13332 Seth Redfield, Wesleyan University A SNAP Survey of the Local Interstellar Medium: New NUV Observations of Stars with Archived FUV Observations
13336 Lorenz Roth, Southwest Research Institute Probing Io's putative global magma ocean through FUV auroral spot morphology
13349 Xiaohui Fan, University of Arizona Escaping Lyman Continuum in Strongly Lensed Galaxies at z=2.0-2.5
13363 Nuria Calvet, University of Michigan Gauging dust settling in 5-10 Myr old disks with COS
13364 Daniela Calzetti, University of Massachusetts - Amherst LEGUS: Legacy ExtraGalactic UV Survey
13404 William M. Grundy, Lowell Observatory Mutual Orbits and Physical Properties of Binary Transneptunian Objects
13414 Mark R. Showalter, SETI Institute Reading the Record of Cometary Impacts into Jupiter's Rings
13435 Matteo Monelli, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias Multiple populations in external globular glusters: the Fornax dSph, the LMC, and the SMC
13442 R. Brent Tully, University of Hawaii The Geometry and Kinematics of the Local Volume
13449 Marla C. Geha, Yale University A Non-Universal Initial Mass Function in the Ultra-Faint Galaxy Coma Berenices
13453 Michael Jura, University of California - Los Angeles The Elemental Compositions of Extrasolar Minor Planets
13459 Tommaso L. Treu, University of California - Santa Barbara The Grism Lens-Amplified Survey from Space {GLASS}
13467 Jacob L. Bean, University of Chicago Follow The Water: The Ultimate WFC3 Exoplanet Atmosphere Survey
13471 Robert A. Fesen, Dartmouth College STIS Spectra of the Young SN Ia Remnant SN 1885 in M31
13472 Wendy L. Freedman, Carnegie Institution of Washington The Hubble Constant to 1%? STAGE 4: Calibrating the RR Lyrae PL relation at H-Band using HST and Gaia Parallax Stars
13487 Michael Salz, Universitat Hamburg, Hamburger Sternwarte A pilot study to characterize the Lyman alpha emission of active exoplanet host stars
13496 Jennifer Lotz, Space Telescope Science Institute HST Frontier Fields - Observations of MACSJ0416.1-2403
13609 David Jewitt, University of California - Los Angeles Investigating the Trigger Mechanism for Newly Discovered Main Belt Comet P/2013 P5

Selected highlights

GO 13459: The Grism Lens-Amplified Survey from Space {GLASS}


HST imaging of the galaxy cluster MACS0717.5-3745
The overwhelming majority of galaxies in the universe are found in clusters. As such, these systems offer an important means of tracing the development of large-scale structure through the history of the universe. Moreover, as intense concentrations of mass, galaxy clusters provide highly efficient gravitational lenses, capable of concentrating and magnifying light from background high redshift galaxies to allow detailed spectropic investigations of star formation in the early universe. Hubble imaging has already revealed lensed arcs and detailed sub-structure within a handful of rich clusters. At the same time, the lensing characteristics provide information on the mass distribution within the lensing cluster. Hubble is currently undertaking deep imaging observations of up to 6 galaxy clusters as part of the Frontier Fields Director's Time program (GO 13495). The present program supplements those visual and near-infrared data by adding imaging spectrophotometry at near-infrared wavelengths, using the low-resolution G102 and G141 grisms on the WFC3-IR camera. In all, the program targets 10 clusters drawn from both the Frontier Fields sample and from the larger-scale (but less deep) multicolour CLASH program. The goal is to identify and characterise galaxies at relatively high redshifts, close to the epoch of reionisation. The grism data should provide low-resolution spectra for 150-200 galaxies at redshifts z>6, with the potential to detect Lyman alpha emission at redshifts up to z~8.5. The present observations target the Frontier Fields cluster, MACS0717.5+3745.

GO 13467: Follow The Water: The Ultimate WFC3 Exoplanet Atmosphere Survey


Probing the atmosphere of a transiting exoplanet
The first exoplanet, 51 Peg b, was discovered in 1995 through high-precision radial velocity measurements. 51 Pegb was followed by a trickle, and then a flood of other discoveries, as astronomers realised that there were other solar systems radically different from our own, where "hot jupiters" led to short-period, high-amplitude velocity variations. Then, in 1999, came the inevitable discovery that one of those hot jupiters. HD 209458b, was in an orbit aligned with our line of sight to the star, resulting in transits. Since that date, the number of known transiting exoplanet systems has grown to more than 400 in over 300 planetary systems, with the overwhelming majority identified by the Kepler satellite, which has also contributed close to 3,000 additional (very strong) candidates. As these observations have accumulated,the broad diversity of exoplanet systems has become increasingly apparent. Transiting systems are invaluable, since they provide not only unambiguous measurements of mass and diameter, but also an opportunity to probe the atmospheric structure by differencing spectra taken during and between primary secondary transit. Such observations are best done from space: indeed, while high-precision ground-based observations have succeeded in constraining atmospheric properties in a few systems, the only successful detections of atmospheric features to date have been with HST and Spitzer. HST capabilities have been enhanced in the last few years with addition of spatial scanning, moving the target star over the chip in a controlled fashion during an observation. This allows observers to accumulate images or spectra of substantially higher signal-to-noise, a crucial advantage if one is looking for flux differences of elss than 1 part in 104. Past programs have accumulated observations of over a dozen exoplanets, using STIS at optical wavelengths and WFC3 in the near-infrared. The present program targets eight exoplanet systems with a diverse range of properties: HD 209458b,GL 3470b, HAT-P-26b, WASP-12b, WASP-18b, WASP-43b, WASP-80b and WASP-19b. The WFC3-IR G141 grism will be used to search for the characteristic near-infrared spectral features due to water in the amospheres of these exoplanets.

GO 13472: The Hubble Constant to 1%? STAGE 4: Calibrating the RR Lyrae PL relation at H-Band using HST and Gaia Parallax Stars

RR Lyrae's light curve at visible wavelengths
The classical cosmic distance scale rests on a series of distance indicators that step outwards from the Milky Way, establishing reliable measurements to ever more distant galaxies. Cephids have long been the prime calibrators in this process, but other pulsating variables, notably Mira AGB long-period variables and RR Lyrae variables, also make significant contributions. RR Lyrae variables are evolved, near-solar-mass stars that are passing through the instability strip where it crosses the horizontal branch. With periods of 0.5 to 1.5 days, they have long served as distance indicators for old stellar populations (Baade's Population II). They have been known in the Galactic field and in Galactic globular clusters for over 150 years, and they are also present in the older stellar populations of the dwarf spheroidal Galactic satellites. Cluster (or dsph) RR Lyraes are particularly interesting, since their metallicities and ages can be deduced from analysis of the colour-magnitude diagrams for those systems. They are significantly less luminous than Cepheids, nonetheless, near-infrared photometric monitoring has demonstrated that these stars delineate a period-luminosity relation at those wavelengths that has the potential to establish distances to better than 1.5% accuracy. The absoltue calibration of that relationship, however, rests on only 4 nearby RR Lyraes with trigonometric parallax measurements. The present program aims to add to the sample of astrometricall well-observed RR Lyraes by using spatial scanning on WFC3 to determine accurate parallaxes for a sample of Galactic variables lying at distances up to several kpc from the Sun. Spatial scanning enables astrometry to an acuracy of ~40 microarcseconds, offering the prospect of distances accurate to 4% for individual stars, and an overall distance scale calibration accurate to better than 3%%.

GO 13609: Investigating the Trigger Mechanism for Newly Discovered Main Belt Comet P/2013 P5


Asteroid 596-Scheila, the prototype main-belt coment, imaged by Peter Lake in December, 2010
The term 'comet" is generally associated with low-mass, volatile-rich solar system objects that spend most of their life at very lage distances from the Sun, plunging only rarely into the inner regions where they acquire extended tails due to outgassing. Sometimes those obejcts are captured into short-period, eccentric orbits, leading to rapid depletion of the volatile content in rapidly-successive perihelion passages. However, recent years have seen growing evidence of another class of cometes exist: comets with near-circular orbits that place them between Mars and Jupiter, within the realm of the Main Belt of asteroids. One of the first candidate main belt comets, as these objects have been dubbed, is the asteroid Scheila. Discovered by the Heidelberg astronomer August Kopff in 1906, and named after an English student with whom he was acquainted, this is one of the larger known asteroids, with a diameter estimated as ~110 km. Early December 2010, Steve Larson (of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory) noted that Scheila had sprouted a coma halo in observations taken by the Catalina Sky Survey. An examination of archival images revealed no evidence for activity throughout October and November, but a possible onset on December 3rd. The asteroid 1979 OW7/1996 N2 exhibited similar behaviour in 1996 and again in 2002; the initial outburst was ascribed to a collision, but the second event suggests that the activity is intrinsic rather than externally stimulated. More recently, the Pan-STARRS survey has contributed two objects: the asteroid 2006 VW139, imaged during an outburst; and Main Belt Comet 2013-P5. The present HST target-of-opportunity program has been triggered in response to the latter discovery, using high-resolution visual imaging with Wide-Feld Camera 3 to probe the detailed nature of the outburst. The first set of observations were taken on September, revealing significant changes in morphology within a two-week period. The present program builds on those reslts by mapping out a series of ~monthly observations to track the subsequent decline in activity with the aim of better understanding the mechanism that triggered the outburst.

Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 14/10/2012
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