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How the Hubble Heritage Image of Arp 87 Finally Came to Be...

A memory exerpt from Heritage Image Processor, Zolt Levay:

"As far as I can reconstruct, we began considering Arp 87 as a possible Heritage observation as far back as seven years ago (in 2000), well before the installation of ACS. I began a systematic survey of the Arp Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies to find the most interesting ones that might serve as potential targets for a Heritage release. Arp 87 caught my eye as a particularly intriguing example. Tidal filaments connecting the interacting pair and streamers apparently wrapping around one of the companions were hinted at but not well resolved in the available ground-based images. Surely Hubble's higher resolution would show much more detail in these features. In addition, several other galaxies were visible in the background behind the large pair. Perhaps best of all, the pair also neatly fit the WFPC2 field of view.

 

Download the Arp 87
full WFPC2 field

small jpeg: 188kB
large jpeg: 4.9 MB
large tiff: 9.6 MB

There always seemed to be other objects with higher priority to use the limited time available for Heritage to make observations. The more capable ACS instrument was eventually installed in 2003, promising to make an even better image of this interesting target. ACS is particularly suited to imaging galaxies and the faint background beyond. Most deep ACS images of extragalactic fields reveal many fainter, more distant galaxies.


[Visit the Arp 87 Production Gallery of images used to plan Hubble observations
of this amazing galaxy merger, as well as drafts of the composite and cropping
of the final release image. This gallery of images was culled down from roughly
three times as many image products.]

Unfortunately, before we could get the observations of Arp 87 planned and completed, ACS failed. However, the loss of ACS provided an unusual opportunity for making some observations with WFPC2 before science proposals could be revised to fill time available in the observing schedule. Hubble Heritage proposed to use this fortuitous opportunity to make several observations with WFPC2, including a few planetary nebulae and compact interacting galaxies, one of which was Arp 87.

The results not only provide an intriguing image of an amazing location in space, but also demonstrate that the venerable WFPC2 instrument is alive and well, and the HST observatory as a whole continues to produce its usual stream of amazing science and compelling pictures."

One of the early images, dated December 2000, showing the WFPC2 footprint on a DSS image of Arp 87.

Sky image courtesy of DSS.