Hubble Space Telescope Paschen α survey of the Galactic Centre: Data reduction and products

H. Dong, Q. D. Wang, A. Cotera, S. Stolovy, M. R. Morris, J. Mauerhan, E. A. Mills, G. Schneider, D. Calzetti, C. Lang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Our Hubble Space Telescope/Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (HST/NICMOS) Paschen α survey of the Galactic Centre, first introduced by Wang et al., provides a uniform, panoramic, high-resolution map of stars and an ionized diffuse gas in the central 416arcmin2 of the Galaxy. This survey was carried out with 144 HST orbits using two narrow-band filters at 1.87 and 1.90 μm in NICMOS Camera 3. In this paper, we describe in detail the data reduction and mosaicking procedures followed, including background level matching and astrometric corrections. We have detected ∼570000 near-infrared (near-IR) sources using the 'starfinder' software and are able to quantify photometric uncertainties of the detections. The source detection limit varies across the survey field, but the typical 50 per cent completion limit is ∼17th magnitude (Vega system) in the 1.90 μm band. A comparison with the expected stellar magnitude distribution shows that these sources are primarily main-sequence massive stars (≳7M) and evolved lower mass stars at the distance of the Galactic Centre. In particular, the observed source magnitude distribution exhibits a prominent peak, which could represent the red clump (RC) stars within the Galactic Centre. The observed magnitude and colour of these RC stars support a steep extinction curve in the near-IR towards the Galactic Centre. The flux ratios of our detected sources in the two bands also allow for an adaptive and statistical estimate of extinction across the field. With the subtraction of the extinction-corrected continuum, we construct a net Paschen α emission map and identify a set of Paschen α emitting sources, which should mostly be evolved massive stars with strong stellar winds. The majority of the identified Paschen α point sources are located within the three known massive Galactic Centre stellar clusters. However, a significant fraction of our Paschen α emitting sources are located outside the clusters and may represent a new class of 'field' massive stars, many of which may have formed in isolation and/or in small groups. The maps and source catalogues presented here are available electronically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-135
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Catalogues
  • Galaxy: centre
  • Infrared: stars
  • Stars: formation
  • Surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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