The size of Pluto has been difficult to measure. Stellar occultations by Pluto have not yet probed altitudes lower than 1198 km, assuming the clear atmosphere model of Elliot, Person and Qu (2003). Differential refraction by Pluto's atmosphere attenuates the light from an occulted star to a level that is indistinguishable from the zero-level baseline long before Pluto's solid surface is a factor.Since Charon has no detectable atmosphere, its radius was well determined from a stellar occultation in 2005 (Gulbis et al. 2006, Sicardy et al. 2006). Combined with the mutual event photometry (Charon transited Pluto every 6.38 days between 1986 through 1992) - for which differential refraction is a negligible effect - the well-known radius of Charon translates into a more accurate radius for Pluto's solid surface. Our preliminary solid radius estimate for Pluto is 1161 km. We will discuss error bars and the correlations of this determination with Pluto albedo maps. We will also discuss the implications for Pluto's thermal profile, surface temperature and pressure, and constraints on the presence of a haze layer. This work is funded by NASA's Planetary Astronomy program. References Elliot, J.L., Person, M.J., & Qu, S. 2003, "Analysis of Stellar Occultation Data. II. Inversion, with Application to Pluto and Triton." AJ, 126, 1041. Gulbis, A.A.S. et al. 2006, "Charon's radius and atmospheric constraints from observations of a stellar occultation." Nature, 49, 48. Sicardy, B. et al. 2006, "Charon's size and an upper limit on its atmosphere from a stellar occultation." Nature, 49, 52.
AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts #39
- Pub Date:
- October 2007