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Hubble Status Report - February 2005

Hubble Status Report - February 2005

Mission Status From an operational point of view, the Hubble spacecraft is performing nominally. Measurements over the last few months have shown a negative average position for the HST focus. Consequently, an HST secondary mirror move of 4.16 micron away from the primary was performed on 22 December 2004. Analysis of data taken shortly before and after the focus adjustment show a change in the point-spread function consistent with the return to nominal focus.
The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) was suspended on 28 December 2004, due to a reset of the Main Electronics Board. A "suspend" state is one where the normal activity of the ACS computer is halted and it is left running its boot code. This is the first time since its installation that this happens. Analysis suggested that this event was due to a particle impact during passage through the South-Atlantic Anomaly. On 30 December 2004, the computer was reset and ACS was returned to normal operations.

In the event that HST has to be operated with only two gyros before a refurbishment can take place, preparations and development for the Two-Gyro Science Mode continue. Tests of the Two-Gyro Science Mode under realistic observing conditions, including all science instruments, are planned for February 2005. The results of these tests will influence the decision whether to make a proactive switch to Two-Gyro Science Mode at the beginning of Cycle 14, rather than incur an interruption of the schedule when two more gyros have failed. Proposers for HST Cycle 14 have to include a statement on the effect of two-gyro guiding with the modelled capabilities in their proposals. An early introduction of the Two-Gyro Science Mode is expected to extend the observing lifetime of HST with the current set of gyros by about 9 months to mid-2008.

The Cycle 14 Call for Proposals was issued in mid-October, with a deadline for the submission of Phase I information by 21 January 2005. After the Time Allocation Committee deliberations in mid-March, the Principal Investigators of successful proposals will be notified in early April. The nominal start date for Cycle 14 observations is July 2005.

Science Highlights

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered for the first time a population of embryonic stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud. Hubble's exquisite sharpness plucked out an underlying population of embryonic stars embedded in the nebula NGC 346 that are still forming from gravitationally collapsing gas clouds. They have not yet ignited their hydrogen fuel to sustain nuclear fusion. The smallest of these infant stars is only half the mass of our Sun. The observations, by Antonella Nota of ESA and STScI and her co-workers, have been presented at the last meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

One of the largest Hubble Space Telescope images ever made of a complete galaxy was unveiled also at the American Astronomical Society meeting. The Hubble telescope captured a display of starlight, glowing gas, and silhouetted dark clouds of interstellar dust in this image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300, considered to be prototypical of barred spiral galaxies. At Hubble's resolution, a myriad of fine details, some of which have never before been seen, is seen throughout the galaxy's arms, disk, bulge, and nucleus. Blue and red supergiant stars, star clusters, and star-forming regions are well resolved across the spiral arms, and dust lanes trace out fine structures in the disk and bar. Numerous more distant galaxies are visible in the background, and are seen even through the densest regions of NGC 1300.

The Hubble Space Telescope's near-infrared vision is hot on the trail of a possible planetary companion to a relatively bright young brown dwarf located 225 light-years away in the southern constellation Hydra. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile detected the planet candidate in April 2004 with infrared observations. The astronomers spotted a faint companion object to the brown dwarf, called 2MASSWJ 1207334-393254 (2M1207). They suspect the companion is a planet because it is dimmer and cooler than the brown dwarf. Because a planet beyond our solar system has never been imaged directly, this remarkable observation required Hubble's unique abilities to perform follow-up observations to test and validate if the object is indeed a planet. Based on the VLT and Hubble observations, astronomers are 99 percent sure that the companion is orbiting the brown dwarf.

Last Update: 1 September 2019
12-Apr-2024 14:35 UT

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