ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
The space shuttle Discovery will have to wait at least another seven weeks before returning to duty, NASA decided last week. But preparations for an astronaut servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope will resume anyway - another sign that new NASA administrator Michael Griffin may reverse his predecessor's decision to abandon the telescope later in the decade.
Published: 06 May 2005
Published: 02 November 2004
In the last decade star clusters have been found in the centers of spiral galaxies across all Hubble types. We here present a spectroscopic study of the exceptionally bright (106108 LSun) but compact (re ~ 5 pc) nuclear star clusters in very late type spirals with the Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph at the VLT. We find that the velocity dispersions of the nine clusters in our sample range from 13 to 34 km s-1. Using photometric data from the Hubble Space Telescope WFPC2 and spherically symmetric dynamical models, we determine masses between 8 x 105 and 6 x 107 MSun. The mass-to-light ratios range from 0.2 to 1.5 in the I band. This indicates a young mean age for most clusters, in agreement with previous studies.
Published: 05 January 2005
Data obtained with the NICMOS instrument on board the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have been used to determine the H-band luminosity function (LF) and mass function (MF) of three stellar fields in the globular cluster M15, located ~7' from the cluster centre. The data confirm that the cluster MF has a characteristic mass of ~0.3 Msolar, as obtained by Paresce & De Marchi (2000) for a stellar field at 4.6' from the centre. By combining the present data with those published by other authors for various radial distances (near the centre, at 20" and at 4.6'), we have studied the radial variation of the LF due to the effects of mass segregation and derived the global mass function (GMF) using the Michie-King approach.
Published: 14 December 2004
The brightness of type Ia supernovae, and their homogeneity as a class, makes them powerful tools in cosmology, yet little is known about the progenitor systems of these explosions. They are thought to arise when a white dwarf accretes matter from a companion star, is compressed and undergoes a thermonuclear explosion. Unless the companion star is another white dwarf (in which case it should be destroyed by the mass-transfer process itself), it should survive and show distinguishing properties. Tycho's supernova is one of only two type Ia supernovae observed in our Galaxy, and so provides an opportunity to address observationally the identification of the surviving companion. Here we report a survey of the central region of its remnant, around the position of the explosion, which excludes red giants as the mass donor of the exploding white dwarf. We found a type G0-G2 star, similar to our Sun in surface temperature and luminosity (but lower surface gravity), moving at more than three times the mean velocity of the stars at that distance, which appears to be the surviving companion of the supernova.
Published: 29 October 2004
We present here the results of astrometric, photometric and spectroscopic observations leading to the determination of the orbit and dynamical masses of the binary L dwarf 2MASSW J0746425+2000321. High angular resolution observations spread over almost 4 years and obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), and a the W. M. Keck Observatory (Keck) allow us to cover ~36% of the period, corresponding to 60% of the orbit, and, for the first time, to derive a precise estimate of the total and individual masses of such a late-type object. We find an orbital period of 3850.9+904-767 days. The corresponding total mass is 0.146+0.016-0.006 MSun with uncertainties depending on the distance. Spatially resolved low resolution optical (550-1025 nm) spectra have been obtained with HST/STIS, allowing us to measure the spectral types of the two components (L0± 0.5 for the primary and L1.5 ±0.5 for the secondary). We also present precise photometry of the individual components measured on the high angular resolution images obtained with HST/ACS and WFPC2 (visible), VLT/NACO (J, H and KS bands) and Keck I (KS band). These spectral and photometric measurements enable us to estimate their effective temperatures and mass ratio, and to place the object accurately in a H-R diagram. The binary system is most likely formed by a primary with a mass of 0.085±0.010 MSun and a secondary with a mass of 0.066±0.006 MSun, thus clearly substellar, for an age of approximately 300±150 Myr. H-alpha variability indicates chromospheric and/or magnetic activity.
Published: 16 August 2004
We discuss the observational properties of a remarkably faint triply imaged galaxy revealed in a deep z'-band Advanced Camera for Surveys observation of the lensing cluster A2218 (z=0.175). A well-constrained mass model for the cluster, which incorporates the outcome of recent Keck spectroscopic campaigns, suggests that the triple system arises via a high-redshift (z>6) source viewed at high magnification (~=25 times). Optical and infrared photometry from Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory confirms the lensing hypothesis and suggests that a significant discontinuity occurs in the spectral energy distribution within the wavelength interval 9250-9850 Å. If this break is associated with Gunn-Peterson absorption from neutral hydrogen, a redshift of 6.6 < z < 7.1 is inferred. Deep Keck spectroscopy conducted using both optical and infrared spectrographs fails to reveal any prominent emission lines in this region. However, an infrared stellar continuum is detected whose decline below 9800 Å suggests a spectroscopic redshift toward the upper end of the range constrained photometrically, i.e., z~=7. Regardless of the precise redshift, the source is remarkably compact (<~1 h-170 kpc) and faint (zF850LP=28.0) yet is undergoing vigorous star formation at a rate ~=2.6 Msolar yr-1. An intriguing property is the steep slope of the ultraviolet continuum implied by the photometry, which may suggest that the source is representative of an early population of galaxies responsible for cosmic reionization. Independent verification of these results is highly desirable, but our attempts highlight the difficulty of studying such sources with present facilities and the challenges faced in pushing back the frontiers of the observable universe beyond z~6.5.
Published: 02 May 2004
Published: 16 May 2004
We present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and deep ground-based images of the Red Rectangle (RR), a bipolar proto-planetary nebula associated with the post-AGB binary system HD 44179. The high-resolution HST images reveal complex new structures, many of them unique to this object. The RR nebula is dominated by a discontinuous "bicone,'' whose bright, sharp linear edges give the nebula an overall X-shaped appearance. The edges of the bicone are connected by a remarkable series of linear features elongated perpendicular to the radius vector, giving the object a ladder-like structure. The "rungs'' of the ladder structure show a quasi-periodic spacing, suggesting that they have arisen from discrete episodes of mass loss from the central star, separated by a few hundred years. The total timescale over which mass has been shed into the visible nebula is of order 14 000 yr. Outside the X-shaped bicone, parabolas curl inward, resembling wineglasses, which terminate on the bicone edges in large, limb-brightened vortices. The central object is bisected by a dark band, indicating that the star is not seen directly but is instead obscured by a surrounding opaque dust disk.
Published: 16 April 2004
We present a search for rings or arcs in the haloes of planetary nebulae (PNe). We discovered such structures in eight PNe, tripling the sample of PNe with known rings. This shows that, contrary to what was believed to date, the occurrence of mass loss fluctuations with timescales of 102-10³ yrs at the end of the asymptotic giant branch phase (AGB) is common. We estimate a lower limit of the occurrence rate of rings in PN haloes to be ~35%. Using these new detections and the cases previously known, we discuss the statistical properties of ring systems in PNe haloes. We estimate that the mass modulation producing the rings takes place during the last 10 000 or 20 000 yrs of AGB evolution. In PNe, the spacing between rings ranges from <0.01 pc to 0.06 pc, significantly larger than those seen in proto-PNe. This, together with the finding of a possible positive correlation of spacing with the post-AGB age of the nebulae, suggests that the spacing of the rings increases with time. These properties, as well as the modest surface brightness amplitudes of rings, are consistent with the predictions of the dust-driven wind instability model explored by Meijerink et al., but do not immediately exclude other proposed models.
Published: 16 April 2004
Four transits of the planet orbiting the star HD209458 were observed with the STIS spectrograph on board HST. The wavelength domain (1180-1710A) includes HI as well as CI, CII, CIV, NV, OI, SI, SiII, SiIII and SiIV lines. During the transits, absorptions are detected in HI, OI and CII (5+/-2%, 13+/-4.5% and 7.5+/-3.5%, respectively). No absorptions are detected for other lines. The 5% mean absorption over the whole HI Lyman alpha line is consistent with the previous detection at higher resolution (Vidal-Madjar et al. 2003). The absorption depths in OI and CII show that oxygen and carbon are present in the extended upper atmosphere of HD209458b. These species must be carried out up to the Roche lobe and beyond, most likely in a state of hydrodynamic escape.
Published: 02 February 2004
Published: 15 January 2004
The Lynx arc, with a redshift of 3.357, was discovered during spectroscopic follow-up of the z=0.570 cluster RX J0848+4456 from the ROSAT Deep Cluster Survey. The arc is characterized by a very red R-K color and strong, narrow emission lines. Analysis of HST WFPC2 imaging and Keck optical and infrared spectroscopy shows that the arc is an H II galaxy magnified by a factor of ~10 by a complex cluster environment. The high intrinsic luminosity, the emission-line spectrum, the absorption components seen in Lyalpha and C IV, and the rest-frame ultraviolet continuum are all consistent with a simple H II region model containing ~106 hot O stars. The best-fit parameters for this model imply a very hot ionizing continuum (TBB~= 80 000 K), a high ionization parameter (logU~=-1), and a low nebular metallicity (Z/Zsolar~=0.05). The narrowness of the emission lines requires a low mass-to-light ratio for the ionizing stars, suggestive of an extremely low metallicity stellar cluster. The apparent overabundance of silicon in the nebula could indicate enrichment by past pair-instability supernovae, requiring stars more massive than ~140 Msolar.
Published: 21 October 2003
The last few months have proved to be a time when both the Hubble project and the ST-ECF are considering the transition period when Hubble will end its life and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will begin operations.
Published: 02 August 2003
We present a comprehensive lensing analysis of the rich cluster Cl0024+1654 (z=0.395) based on panoramic sparse-sampled imaging conducted with the WFPC2 and STIS cameras on board the Hubble Space Telescope. By comparing higher fidelity signals in the limited STIS data with the wider field data available from WFPC2, we demonstrate an ability to detect reliably weak lensing signals to a cluster radius of ~5 (h65)-1 Mpc where the mean shear is around 1%.
Published: 10 November 2003
Last Christmas Eve was very special one for ESA astronauts Claude Nicollier and Jean-François Clervoy: together with their American colleagues, they spent it aboard the Space Shuttle 'Discovery', after concluding the latest scheduled repair mission to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This third Shuttle refurbishment mission to HST was, like its two predecessors, a resounding success. Only days later, as Hubble entered the new millennium, came the first beautiful images of a complex gravitationally lensing cluster of galaxies. The astronauts' visit took place shortly before the 10th Anniversary of the launch of Hubble, which was first placed in orbit on 26 April 1990. Since then, HST has become the leading tool in ultraviolet, optical and near-infrared astronomy and is now looking forward to another decade of exciting discoveries and sharp views of the Universe.
Published: 01 November 2000
Using the technique of point-spread function-matched image subtraction, we have analyzed archival Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 data to reveal details of at least two light echo structures, including some unknown before now, around SN 1993J in the galaxy M81. In particular, we see one partial sheet of material 81 pc in front of the supernova (SN) and tilted ~60° relative to the disk plane of M81 and another 220 pc in front of the SN, roughly parallel to the disk. The inferred echoing material is consistent with the H I surface density detected in this region of M81's disk; however, these data imply a fragmented covering factor for the echoing structures. We discuss prospects for future (roughly annual) visits by HST to image these and yet undiscovered echoes in the interstellar and circumstellar environment of SN 1993J.
Published: 15 December 2002
Dynamical studies of superbubbles and Wolf-Rayet ring nebulae show discrepancies from the standard adiabatic model for windblown bubbles. We therefore study the physical properties and kinematics of three candidate bubbles blown by single O stars to evaluate whether these discrepancies are also found in these simpler objects. Our sample candidates are N44 F, N44 J, and N44 M, in the outskirts of the H II complex N44 in the Large Magellanic Cloud. We have obtained ground-based and Hubble Space Telescope emission-line images and high-dispersion echelle spectra for these objects. From the Halpha luminosities and the [O III]/Halpha ratios of these nebulae, we estimate the spectral types of the ionizing stars to be O7 V, O9.5 V, and O9.5 V for N44 F, N44 J, and N44 M, respectively. We find that the observed expansion velocity of 12 kms-1 for N44 F is consistent with the stellar wind luminosity expected from the central ionizing star, as predicted by the standard bubble model. The observed upper limits for the expansion velocities of N44 J and N44 M are also compatible with the expected values, within the uncertainties. We also report the discovery in N44 F of strongly defined dust columns, similar to those seen in the Eagle Nebula. The photoevaporation of these dense dust features may be kinematically important and may actually govern the evolution of the shell. The inclusion of photoevaporation processes may thus undermine the apparent agreement between the observed bubble dynamics and the simple adiabatic models.
Published: 24 August 2002
Massive stars are expected to produce wind-blown bubbles in the interstellar medium; however, ring nebulae, suggesting the existence of bubbles, are rarely seen around main-sequence O stars. To search for wind-blown bubbles around main-sequence O stars, we have obtained high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope WFPC2 images and high-dispersion echelle spectra of two pristine H II regions, N11B and N180B, in the Large Magellanic Cloud. These H II regions are ionized by OB associations that still contain O3 stars, suggesting that the H II regions are young and have not hosted any supernova explosions. Our observations show that wind-blown bubbles in these H II regions can be detected kinematically, but not morphologically, because their expansion velocities are comparable to or only slightly higher than the isothermal sound velocity in the H II regions. Bubbles are detected around concentrations of massive stars, individual O stars, and even an evolved red supergiant (a fossil bubble). Comparisons between the observed bubble dynamics and model predictions show a large discrepancy (1-2 orders of magnitude) between the stellar wind luminosity derived from bubble observations and models and that derived from observations of stellar winds. The number and distribution of bubbles in N11B differ from those in N180B, which can be explained by the difference in the richness of stellar content between these two H II regions. Most of the bubbles observed in N11B and N180B show a blister structure, indicating that the stars were formed on the surfaces of dense clouds. Numerous small dust clouds, similar to Bok globules or elephant trunks, are detected in these H II regions, and at least one of them hosts on-going star formation.
Published: 16 August 2001
We report Hubble Space Telescope NICMOS observations of the central region of NGC 5128 at 2.2 mm and in Paa. The continuum images show extended emission typical of an elliptical galaxy and a strong unresolved central source we identify as the nucleus of the galaxy. Its position is consistent with ground-based IR and radio data, and with the peak of reddening found with the first wide field planetary camera. In Paa , we detect a prominent elongated structure, centered on the nucleus, extended by ~2" at a position angle of ~33°, and with a major to minor axis ratio of ~2. We interpret this as an inclined, ~40 pc diameter, thin nuclear disk of ionized gas rather than a jet-gas cloud interaction. We do see several weaker Paa features, some of which may be circumnuclear gas clouds shocked by the X-ray/radio jet. The disk is one of the smallest ever observed at the nucleus of an active galactic nucleus (AGN). It is not perpendicular to the jet but is consistent with being oriented along the major axis of the bulge. If it represents the warped outer portion of an accretion disk around a black hole, we conclude that even on the scale of a few parsecs, the disk is dominated by the galaxy gravitational potential and is not directly related to the symmetry axis of the AGN.
Published: 02 May 1998
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