This week on HST


HST Programs: October 6 - October 12, 2014

Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title
13117 Andrew J. Levan, The University of Warwick A Chandra/HST survey of dark gamma-ray bursts and their hosts
13292 Remy Indebetouw, The University of Virginia Dissecting star formation in N159
13332 Seth Redfield, Wesleyan University A SNAP Survey of the Local Interstellar Medium: New NUV Observations of Stars with Archived FUV Observations
13335 Adam Riess, The Johns Hopkins University HST and Gaia, Light and Distance
13337 Keren Sharon, University of Michigan Resolving the Cluster-Lensed Sextuple Quasar SDSSJ2222+2745
13346 Thomas R. Ayres, University of Colorado at Boulder Advanced Spectral Library II: Hot Stars
13359 Daniel J. Lennon, ESA-European Space Astronomy Centre Proper Motions of Massive Stars in 30 Doradus
13463 Kailash C. Sahu, Space Telescope Science Institute Detecting and Measuring the Masses of Isolated Black Holes and Neutron Stars through Astrometric Microlensing
13483 Goeran Oestlin, Stockholm University eLARS - extending the Lyman Alpha Reference Sample
13498 Jennifer Lotz, Space Telescope Science Institute HST Frontier Fields - Observations of MACSJ0717.5+3745
13650 Kevin France, University of Colorado at Boulder The MUSCLES Treasury Survey: Measurements of the Ultraviolet Spectral Characteristics of Low-mass Exoplanetary Systems
13671 Harald Ebeling, University of Hawaii Beyond MACS: A Snapshot Survey of the Most Massive Clusters of Galaxies at z>0.5
13677 Saul Perlmutter, University of California - Berkeley See Change: Testing time-varying dark energy with z>1 supernovae and their massive cluster hosts
13716 David E. Trilling, Northern Arizona University Constraining the history of the outer Solar System: Definitive proof with HST
13737 Benjamin John Shappee, Carnegie Institution of Washington Whimper of a Bang: Documenting the Final Days of the Nearby Type Ia Supernova 2011fe
13845 Adam Muzzin, Sterrewacht Leiden Resolved H-alpha Maps of Star-forming Galaxies in Distant Clusters: Towards a Physical Model of Satellite Galaxy Quenching
13855 Elodie Choquet, Space Telescope Science Institute STIS Coronagraphy of a Debris Disk Newly Discovered Around a Young M Dwarf

Selected highlights

GO 13332: A SNAPSHOT Survey of the Local Interstellar Medium: New NUV Observations of Stars with Archived FUV Observation


A map of the Local Stellar Neighbourhood
Understanding the nature and structure of gas within the interstellar medium is a key step towards understanding how material is recycled and how energetic processes, such as stellar winds and outflows, feed energy into the overall system. UV spectroscopy plays a key role in probing these effects: hot, background objects that produce relatively few intrinsic absorption features serve to map the the velocities and temperatures within the intervening gas along the line of sight. Observations of quasars are used to probe galaxy halos at moderate and high redshift; observations of hot stars provide similar information for gas in the Milky Way. The present program is using STIS to target stars within 100 parsecs of the Sun, studying the nearby interstellar medium. All of these stars have prior observations at far-UV wavelengths; the STIS data will cover the near-UV, surveying Fe II and Mg II absorption.This program builds on observations spanning 36 targets from Cycle 17.

GO 13335: HST and Gaia, Light and Distance


HST WFPC2 image of NGC 4639, one of the Cepheid-rich spiral galaxies used to calibrate SNe Ia
The cosmic distance scale and dark energy are two key issues in modern astrophysics, and HST has played a vital role in probing both. On the one hand, HST has been involved in cosmic distance measurements since its inception, largely through the H0 Key Project, which used WFPC2 to identify and photometer Cepheids in 31 spiral galaxies at distances from 60 to 400 Mpc. On the other, HST is the prime instrument for investigating cosmic acceleration by searching for and following Type Ia supernovae at moderate and high redshift. These two cosmological parameters are directly related, and recent years have seen renewed interest in improving the accuracy of H0 with the realization that such measurements, when coupled with the improved constraints from the Cosmic Microwave Background, provide important constraints on cosmic acceleration and the nature of Dark Energy. Previous HST programs have focused on identifying and measuring light curves for cepheids in external galaxies (eg GO 10802 , GO 11570 ) or quantifying the effects of variations in intrinsic stellar parameters, such as metallicity (eg GO 10918 , GO 11297 ). The present SNAP program is part of a suite of HST programs focusing on the Galactic Cepheids that form the foundation for the whole distance ladder. These programs employ a revived version of an old technique to determine both accurate astrometry, hence trigonometric parallaxes and reliable distances, and accurate photometry, hence flux emasurements. The technique is drift-scanning - tracking HST during the observation so that stars form trails on the detector. This mode of observations was available in the early years of HST's operations, and has been revived primarily as a means of obtaining high signal-to-noise grism spectroscolpic data of stars hosting transiting exoplanets. However, the same technique can be used in imaging mode, and the extended trails allow not only multiple measurements of position differences for stars in the field but also extremely high signal-to-noise photometry. The latter is crucial in obtaining direct photometry of tghe local calibrations on the same HST system, the same system that is being used for photometry of Cephids in the external galaxies that serve as the basis for the distance scale. The present SNAP program includes 67 longer-period Galactic Cepheids.

GO 13359: Proper Motions of massive Stars in 30 Doradus


Hubble image of the central regions, near NGC 2074, of 30 Doradus, the Tarantula Nebula
The 30 Doradus region, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, is among the most active star-forming regions in the Local Group. Lying within the Large Magellanic Cloud, the star-forming region has a diameter of 200 pc, a total mass around 106 solar masses and is sufficiently bright to be easily detectable to the naked eye (hence the stellar designation). The stellar complex includes a number of individual star clusters that are generally agreed to have ages from a few to ~20 million years. As such, this region is one of the most fruitful for studying both the detailed properties of high mass stars and their overall mass distribution. In Cycle 20, HST undertook an extensive imaging program, the hubble tarantulaTreasury Project, that compiled a mosaiced image of the full 200x200 parsec star forming region. Deep, multi-wavelength imaging with ACS and WFC3 was used to push observations into the sub-solar mass regime, spanning the full wavelength range range from the near-UV with WFC3-UVIS through the optical and far-red with ACS to the near-infrared with WFC3-IR. The present program builds on those observations and on the ground-based VLT-Flames survey, adding multi-epoch data that will enable proper motion emasurement for the brighter cluster members and the detection of isolated runaway stars within the complex.

GO 13650: The MUSCLES Treasury Survey: Measurements of the Ultraviolet Spectral Characteristics of Low-mass Exoplanetary Systems


SOHO image of an extremely strong solar flare
M dwarfs - at least, the subset of M dwarfs known as flare stars - are renowned for possessing extremely active chromospheres and coronae. Their discovery as highly variable objects happened largely by chance. Willem Luyten had noticed in 1924 that certain M dwarfs showed spectroscopic variability, with the occasional appearance of emission lines, while in the early 1940s van Maanen commented that two late-type dwarfs, Gl 412B (WX UMa) and Gl 285 (YZ CMi), had brightened by over a magnitude on a handful of parallax plates. The crucial observations came in 1948, when E.F Carpenter noticed that the fainter component of a wide binary system had brightened by more than 3 magnitudes in a matter of minutes. In the succeeding 50 years, these stars have been subjected to extensive observations, particularly at optical and X-ray wavelengths, and the underlying physical processes are relatively well understood. However, most attention has focused on the more active flare stars, and we still have a relatively uncertain grasp on the flare frequency among less active stars. This issue has acquired increased importance with the realisation that somewhere between 10 and 50% of M dwarfs host planetary systems. As the most populous stars in the Galaxy, this also makes M dwarfs the premier planet hosts. The habitable zones in those systems lie much closer to the parent star, and planets are correspondingly vulnerable to detrimental effects from enhanced UV radiation, particularly short-wavelength UV-C. This proposal uses the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph to obtain UV and optical spectra (1150-5700 Angstroms) of nearby M dwarfs, providing a broad sampling of the range of activity levels among these low mass dwarfs.

Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 5/9/2014
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