This week on HST


HST Programs: November 17 - November 23, 2014

Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title
13347 Joel N. Bregman, University of Michigan The Missing Baryons Around Nearby Dwarf Galaxies
13375 Dougal Mackey, Australian National University Deep photometry of two accreted families of globular clusters in the remote M31 halo
13395 Theodore R. Gull, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Constraining the evolutionary state of the hot, massive companion star and the wind-wind collision region in Eta Carinae
13459 Tommaso L. Treu, University of California - Los Angeles The Grism Lens-Amplified Survey from Space {GLASS}
13504 Jennifer Lotz, Space Telescope Science Institute HST Frontier Fields - Observations of MACSJ1149.5+2223
13517 Matthew A. Malkan, University of California - Los Angeles WFC3 Infrared Spectroscopic Parallel Survey WISP: A Survey of Star Formation Across Cosmic Time
13640 Esther Buenzli, Max-Planck-Institut fur Astronomie, Heidelberg A direct probe of cloud holes at the L/T transition
13645 Xiaohui Fan, University of Arizona Galactic Environment of A Twenty-Billion Solar-Mass Black Hole at the End of Reionization
13657 Jeyhan Kartaltepe, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, AURA Probing the Most Luminous Galaxies in the Universe at the Peak of Galaxy Assembly
13677 Saul Perlmutter, University of California - Berkeley See Change: Testing time-varying dark energy with z>1 supernovae and their massive cluster hosts
13679 Lorenz Roth, Southwest Research Institute Europa's Water Vapor Plumes: Systematically Constraining their Abundance and Variability
13683 Schuyler D. Van Dyk, California Institute of Technology The Stellar Origins of Supernovae
13715 Jennifer Sokoloski, Columbia University in the City of New York Imaging Spectroscopy of the Gamma-Ray Nova V959 Mon
13760 Derck L. Massa, Space Science Institute Filling the gap --near UV, optical and near IR extinction
13761 Stephan Robert McCandliss, The Johns Hopkins University High efficiency SNAP survey for Lyman alpha emitters at low redshift
13774 Sara Ellison, University of Victoria Feeding and feeback: The impact of AGN on the circumgalactic medium.
13776 Michael D. Gregg, University of California - Davis Completing The Next Generation Spectral Library
13791 Nathan Smith, University of Arizona A Time-Lapse Movie of the Kinematics Across the Carina Nebula with ACS
13793 Rebecca A A Bowler, Royal Observatory Edinburgh Unveiling the merger fraction, sizes and morphologies of the brightest z ~ 7 galaxies
13841 Alexandre Gallenne, Universidad de Concepcion Accurate masses and distances of the binary Cepheids S Mus and SU Cyg
13863 Dean C. Hines, Space Telescope Science Institute Imaging Polarimetry of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with ACS: Supporting the Rosetta Mission
13866 David Jewitt, University of California - Los Angeles Determining the Nature and Origin of Mass Loss from Active Asteroid P/2013 P5
13868 Dale D. Kocevski, Colby College Are Compton-Thick AGN the Missing Link Between Mergers and Black Hole Growth?
13928 Adam Riess, The Johns Hopkins University HST and Gaia, Light and Distance
14036 Laurent Lamy, Observatoire de Paris - Section de Meudon Post-equinox Uranus aurorae during a strong magnetosphere-solar wind shock interaction

Selected highlights

GO 13503: HST Frontier Fields - Observations of MACSJ1149.5+2223


The Frontier Fields cluster, MACSJ1149.5+2223
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. The present program builds on the highly successful CLASH program,which used 17-colour ACS/WFC3 images to map 25 galaxy clusters, tracing the mas profile and the dark matter distribution. in addition, the observations identified several lensed galaxies at redshifts that enter the JWST domaine, with the most distant object lying at a redshift z~11, within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang. The Frontier Fields program is a large-scale Director's Discretionary program that capitalises on the latter characteristic by targeting 4-6 strong-lensing galaxy clusters for very deep optical and near-infrared imaging. WFC3 and ACS will be used to observe the clusters, with simultaneous imaging obtained in parallel of a nearby "blank" field. Since the observations need to made at a specific orientation, they are being taken in two sets, ~6 months apart, alternating between detectors. MACSJ1149.5+2223 at z=0.544 is the fourth target: at this first epoch of observation, the cluster is being imaged with WFC3-IR, with ACS being used to obtain optical data on the nearby blank field; the second epoch observations switch cameras, with ACS on the cluster and WFC3-IR on the parallel field.

GO 13640: A direct probe of cloud holes at the L/T transition


Brown dwarfs are likely to have complex atmospheric structures that resemble Jupiter
Brown dwarfs are failed stars - objects that form like stars, by gravitational collapse within giant molecular clouds, but which have insufficient mass to raise the central temperature above 107 K, and which therefore are unable to ignite hydrogran fusion and maintain a long-lived central energy source. As such, these objects reach a maximum surface temperature of perhaps 3,000K some tens of millions of years after their formation, and subsequently cool and fade into oblivion. As they cool, they move through spectral types M, L and T, with the oldest brown dwarfs now likely to have temperatures close to 300K and emergent spectra characterised by water and ammonia bands, the putative signatures of the spectral class Y. As these dwarfs cool from L to T (~1500 to ~1200K), the atmospheres undergo significant changes, with heavier elements condensing to form dust. That dust can form clouds, perhaps giving the dwarf's surface a banded appearance, similar to Jupiter. The clouds themselves may appear and disappear over relatively short timescales, leading to photometric variations at particular wavelengths. Past programs have used both Spitzer and HST to monitor spectral variability in a number of systems. The present program focuses on the nearest known brown dwarfs, the binary system Luhman 16AB, lying at a distance of ~2.4 parsecs. The G102 grism on the Wide-Field Camera 3 near-IR camera will be used to obtain time-resolved spectra centred on FeH bands. Since iron hydride is believed to be associated with cloud, variations in the feature strength should provide information on the degree of cloud cover across the system rotation brings different areas of the surface into view.

GO 13866: Determining the Nature and Origin of Mass Loss from Active Asteroid P/2013 R3


MBC P/2013 P5 as imaged by Hubble in September
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 several objects, including the asteroid 2006 VW139, imaged during an outburst, MBC 2013-P5, which has exhibited a spectacular set of dusty tails, and MBC P/2013 R3, which shows clear evidence for multiple "nuclei". The present HST program is monitoring the former object, using high-resolution visual imaging with Wide-Feld Camera 3 to probe the detailed evolution.

GO 13928: 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.

Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 11/11/2014
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