The mass ratio of Charon to Pluto from Hubble Space Telescope astrometry with the fine guidance sensors
The mass ratio of Charon to Pluto is a basic parameter describing the binary system and is necessary for determining the individual masses and densities of these two bodies. Previous measurements of the mass ratio have been made, but the solutions differ significantly (Null et al., 1993; Young et al., 1994; Null and Owen, 1996; Foust et al., 1997; Tholen and Buie, 1997). We present the first observations of Pluto and Charon with a well-calibrated astrometric instrument—the fine guidance sensors on the Hubble Space Telescope. We observed the motion of Pluto and Charon about the system barycenter over 4.4 days (69% of an orbital period) and determined the mass ratio to be 0.122±0.008 which implies a density of 1.8 to 2.1 g cm -3 for Pluto and 1.6 to 1.8 g cm -3 for Charon. The resulting rock-mass fractions for Pluto and Charon are higher than expected for bodies formed in the outer solar nebula, possibly indicating significant postaccretion loss of volatiles.