STScI will be at the 229th AAS meeting in Grapevine, TX with an exhibit booth and several associated events highlighting the missions we support for the science community. This event marks the formal beginning of the Webb community science mission. There will also be technical presentations in instrument sessions, a wide variety of science presentations, press releases, and ample time to confer with Hubble, Webb, WFIRST, MAST, Human Resources, and other experts throughout the meeting and in the exhibit booth. (C. Christian & B. Lawton)

The combination of deep, resolved Hubble imaging and ground-based stellar spectroscopy provides a powerful mechanism for enhancing our understanding of M31's stellar populations. One example is the discovery that M31's giant stellar stream and prominent shell features are tidal debris from a single merger.

We have extended the SPLASH spectroscopic survey to cover fields throughout M31's stellar disk. The vast majority of these spectroscopic masks overlap with the coverage of the PHAT survey, that obtained contiguous UV to IR imaging over one-third of M31's disk. (K. Gilbert & the SPLASH team)

The upper mass limit for stars is not known with any certainty. The best means of observationally determining this parameter is to study the content of young, massive star clusters. The clusters need to be young (<2 data-preserve-html-node="true" Myr) because of the short lifetime of the most massive stars, and they need to be massive enough to sample the full extent of the initial mass function. The massive star cluster R136 in the 30 Doradus region of the LMC is the only nearby resolved cluster which is young and massive enough to measure the IMF, and thus empirically determine the stellar upper mass cutoff. (L. Smith)

The HST User's Committee (STUC) met on October 20–21, 2016. Their role is to review the current status of the Hubble observatory, including the health of the telescope and instrumentation, as well as the scientific productivity of the facility. The group also makes recommendations regarding policy and observing strategies. (C. Christian & T. Brown)

After its launch, Webb will provide access to near- and mid-infrared wavelengths at unparalleled sensitivity and resolution. Meantime, Hubble continues to stand as the prime space observatory at visual and ultraviolet wavelengths. Consequently, Institute staff members have been working with the Hubble and Webb Project teams at GSFC and with the STUC to optimize community access and logistical support for both observatories. (I. N. Reid)

Despite the best efforts of the Hubble schedulers to allocate every last orbit, a small but persistent fraction (∼2–3%) of the orbits go unused. Salvaging this unused observing time presents an opportunity for the Institute to benefit the astronomy community. The Institute's Hubble Mission Office has initiated a pilot, ultra-low priority, SNAP program (14840, PI: Bellini) in Cycle 24, with the goal of taking useful data in Hubble orbits that absolutely no other program is able to use. (A. Bellini & N. Grogin)

The goal of the Hubble Source Catalog (HSC) is to provide a comprehensive single point of access for Hubble sources. Due to the complexity of the target coverage, creating such a catalog is a considerable challenge. But given the sensitivity of Hubble, there is great potential for scientific discovery through such a catalog. (S. Lubow and the HSC Team)

The Frontier Fields program was designed to push Hubble’s capabilities to the extreme, by using the power of gravitational lensing to see further back in time than ever before. By equal measure, the project has pushed the limits of our understanding of Hubble’s two main imaging cameras and has led to new initiatives that ultimately benefit science for the entire user community. (J. Mack & N. Grogin)

The Origins Space Telescope is an evolving concept for the Far-Infrared Surveyor mission, and the subject of one of the four science and technology definition studies supported by NASA Headquarters to prepare for the 2020 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. In this article, we expand on some key science drivers identified by the team, describe the status of our study, and solicit your science and technology ideas and input to our process. (M. Meixner, A. Cooray, & the Origins Space Telescope Science and Technology Definition Team)

 

The Institute welcomes Dr. Arfon Smith as the new Data Science Mission Office (DSMO) Head. Dr. Smith is responsible for maximizing the scientific returns from MAST, a huge data facility containing astronomical observations from 18 space astronomy missions and ground-based observatories. He will guide the optimization of the Institute's ability to help the scientific community address the challenges of accessing and working with large, complex astronomical observations. (A. Jenkins)

JSTAC's charge in advising the STScI Director can be distilled down to: "maximizing JWST's scientific productivity." This article focuses on the question of the length of the proprietary time for JWST. JSTAC's role is just to make recommendations for STScI to take into consideration in its decisions, and in discussions with NASA and the JWST partner agencies. The discussion in this article reflects the views and recommendations of JSTAC, and should not be considered to be STScI views or policy. (G. Illingworth)