This week on HST

HST Programs: November 5 - November 11, 2007

Program Number Principal Investigator Program Title Links
10864 Carol A. Grady, Eureka Scientific Inc. Mapping the Gaseous Content of Protoplanetary and Young Planetary Systems with ACS Abstract
10889 Roelof de Jong, Space Telescope Science Institute The Nature of the Halos and Thick Disks of Spiral Galaxies Abstract
10900 Roberto Mignani, Mullard Space Science Laboratory Optical polarimetry of PSR B0540-69 and its synchrotron nebula Abstract
10919 Edward F. Guinan, Villanova University Eclipsing Binaries in the Local Group: II - Calibration of the Zeropoint of the Cosmic Distance Scale and Fundamental Properties of Star Abstract
10921 C. O'Dell, Vanderbilt University Tangential Velocities of Objects in the Orion Nebula and Locating the Embedded Outflow Sources Abstract
10925 John Stocke, University of Colorado at Boulder Imaging the Nearest Damped Lyman Alpha Absorbers Abstract
11015 John Hughes, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey The Proper Motion of Supernova Remnant E0509-67.5 Abstract
11080 Daniela Calzetti, University of Massachusetts Exploring the Scaling Laws of Star Formation Abstract
11103 Harald Ebeling, University of Hawaii A Snapshot Survey of The Most Massive Clusters of Galaxies Abstract
11116 Steven H. Saar, Smithsonian Institution Astrophysical Observatory Exploring the Early FUV History of Cool Stars: Transition Regions at 30 Myr Abstract
11128 David Bradley Fisher, University of Texas at Austin Time Scales Of Bulge Formation In Nearby Galaxies Abstract
11134 Karen Knierman, University of Arizona WFPC2 Tidal Tail Survey: Probing Star Cluster Formation on the Edge Abstract
11155 Marshall D. Perrin, University of California - Berkeley Dust Grain Evolution in Herbig Ae Stars: NICMOS Coronagraphic Imaging and Polarimetry Abstract
11169 Michael E. Brown, California Institute of Technology Collisions in the Kuiper belt Abstract
11170 John T. Clarke, Boston University UV Imaging of the Martian Corona and the Escape of Hydrogen Abstract
11178 William M. Grundy, Lowell Observatory Probing Solar System History with Orbits, Masses, and Colors of Transneptunian Binaries Abstract
11196 Aaron S. Evans, State University of New York at Stony Brook An Ultraviolet Survey of Luminous Infrared Galaxies in the Local Universe Abstract
11197 Peter Garnavich, University of Notre Dame Sweeping Away the Dust: Reliable Dark Energy with an Infrared Hubble Diagram Abstract
11202 Leon Koopmans, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute The Structure of Early-type Galaxies: 0.1-100 Effective Radii Abstract
11204 Kevin Luhman, The Pennsylvania State University Imaging Circumstellar Disks and Envelopes around Proto-Brown Dwarfs Abstract
11211 George Fritz Benedict, University of Texas at Austin An Astrometric Calibration of Population II Distance Indicators Abstract
11212 Douglas R. Gies, Georgia State University Research Foundation Filling the Period Gap for Massive Binaries Abstract
11215 Scott Anderson, University of Washington New Sightlines for the Study of Intergalactic Helium: Dozens of High-Confidence, UV-Bright Quasars from SDSS/GALEX Abstract
11219 Alessandro Capetti, Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino Active Galactic Nuclei in nearby galaxies: a new view of the origin of the radio-loud radio-quiet dichotomy? Abstract
11306 Frederic J. Pont, Observatoire de Geneve Direct radius measurement of the Neptune-size transiting exoplanet GJ436b Abstract
11307 Julianne Dalcanton, University of Washington Completing the ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey with WFPC2 Abstract
11312 Graham Smith, University of Birmingham The Local Cluster Substructure Survey (LoCuSS): Deep Strong Lensing Observations with WFPC2 Abstract
11341 Sarah Gallagher, University of California - Los Angeles Lower Luminosity AGNs at Cosmologically Interesting Redshifts: SEDs and Accretion Rates of z~0.36 Seyferts Abstract

Some selected highlights

GO 10889: The Nature of the Halos and Thick Disks of Spiral Galaxies

Ground-based imaging of the edge-on spiral, NGC 891 The stars in the Milky Way are generally grouped into stellar populations, building blocks that provide insight into the process of galaxy assembly. The traditional populations are the near-spherical, metal-poor Halo, representing the first significant burst of star formation; the Disk, whose constituents have higher metallicities, a flattened density distribution (which defines the Galactic Plane) and significant angular momentum, suggesting a formation history that includes collapse and dissipation; and the central Bulge, which, with a spheroidal distribution and broad metallicity range, may be something of an amalgam of disk and halo. The original models for the Disk envisaged a relatively simple population, with a continuous star formation history and an exponential density distribution, both radially and perpendicular to the Plane. However, in the mid-1980s, starcount analyses revealed more complexity in the vertical density distribution, with evidence for two components with scaleheights ~300 and 1000-1300 pc. Subsequent investigations of the more extended component, dubbed the thick disk, suggest that it probably formed as a result of a merger with a massive satellite early in the Milky Way's history (8-10 Gyrs ago). Ground-based observations suggest that some other spiral galaxies possess a similar component. Clearly, the frequency of such systems and their age distribution offer clues to the merging history of the average spiral galaxy. The present program will use ACS, WFPC2 and NICMOS to image seven edge-on spirals at several locations perpendicular to the Plane, with the aim of resolving the underlying stellar populations and tracing the metallicity distribution and overall morphology of the extended disk components.

GO 11178: Probing Solar System History with Orbits, Masses, and Colors of Transneptunian Binaries

Preliminary orbital determination for the KBO WW31, based on C. Veillet's analysis of CFHT observations; the linked image shows the improved orbital derivation, following the addition of HST imaging The Kuiper Belt consists of icy planetoids that orbit the Sun within a broad band stretching from Neptune's orbit (~30 AU) to distance sof ~50 AU from the Sun (see David Jewitt's Kuiper Belt page for details). Over 500 KBOs (or trans-Neptunian objects, TNOs) are currently known out of a population of perhaps 70,000 objects with diameters exceeding 100 km. Approximately 2% of the known KBOs are binary (including Pluto, one of the largest known KBOs, regardless of whether one considers it a planet or not). This is a surprisingly high fraction, given the difficulties involved in forming such systems and the relative ease with which they can be disrupted. It remains unclear whether these systems formed from single KBOs (through collisions or 3-body interactions) as the Kuiper Belt and the Solar System have evolved, or whether they represent the final tail of an initial (much larger) population of primordial binaries. These issues can be addressed, at least in part, through deriving a better understanding of the composition of KBOs - and those properties can be deduced by measuring the orbital parameters for binary systems. The present proposal will use the Planetary camera on WFPC2 to determine the relative orbits for several known KBO binaries. Just as with binary stars, the orbital period and semi-major axis give the total system mass, while the mid-infrared properties (measured by Spitzer) allow an assessment of the surface area/diameters; combining these measurements gives an estimate of the mean density.

GO 11202 The Structure of Early-type Galaxies: 0.1-100 Effective Radii

HST16309+8230, a disk galaxy, distorted due to gravitational lensing by a foreground elliptical Despite their apparently simple appearance, the processes responsible for the formation and evolution of elliptical galaxies remain somewhat obscure. It is clear that most star formationin these systems must occur at early epochs, since these systems are highly gas poor at even moderate redshifts. Grabitational lensing provies one of the more important tools for investigating these systems, since it can probe the detailed form of the mass distribution, and test for the presence of sub-structure in the underlying dark matter, as predicted by some theoretical models. The present program is combining high-resolution, multi-colour HST imaging with ground-based low-resolution VLT/Keck spectroscopic observations of over 50 strong lensing systems. The resultant datasets can be used to investigate the structure of elliptical galaxies over a wide range of radii, and test the predictions of relevant theoretical models.

GO 11306: Direct radius measurement of the Neptune-size transiting exoplanet GJ436b

Artist's impression of the exo-Neptune in orbit around Gliese 436 Gliese 436 is an early-type M dwarf (spectral type M2.5) with a mass approximately 40% that of the Sun lying at a distance of ~10 parsecs. In August 2004, the Lick/Carnegie planet search team (led by Geoff Marcy and Paul Butler) announced the discovery of a ~22 Earth-mass planet in a 2.64 day orbit around this star. Unlike most "hot jupiters", this "hot Neptune" is on an elliptical orbit, e=0.16, which, with a semi-major axis of 0.0278 AU, brings it within 3.5 million kilometres of the central star. Gl 436 is significantly cooler than the Sun, with a surface temperature close to ~3400 degrees Kelvin; even so, the "surface" temperatures on Gl 436b are expected to reach ~740 K (~370 C). In May of this year, a team led by F. Pont demonstrated that Gl 436b transits the parent star. The initial ground-based observations allowed them to derive a diameter approximately 4 times that of Earth, directly comparable with Uranus and Neptune. This provides key insight into the likely origins of Gl 436b, since combining the diameter with the measured mass gives the mean density, and, by inference, the likely composition. For Gl 436b, the indications are that the planet is a displaced "ice giant". The present proposal, submitted by members of the same team, aims to use HST NICMOS observations to obtain a higher accuracy measurement of the planet's radius, and set stronger contraints on the likely composition.

Past weeks:
page by Neill Reid, updated 26/10/2007