Since the last Pluto volatile transport models were published in 1996, we have (1) new stellar occultation data from 2002 and 2006-2012 that show roughly twice the pressure as the first definitive occultation from 1988, (2) new information about the surface properties of Pluto, (3) a spacecraft due to arrive at Pluto in 2015, and (4) a new volatile transport model that is rapid enough to allow a large parameter-space search. Such a parameter-space search coarsely constrained by occultation results reveals three broad solutions: a high-thermal inertia, large volatile inventory solution with permanent northern volatiles (PNVs; using the rotational north pole convention); a lower thermal-inertia, smaller volatile inventory solution with exchanges of volatiles between hemispheres and a pressure plateau beyond 2015 (exchange with pressure plateau, EPP); and solutions with still smaller volatile inventories, with exchanges of volatiles between hemispheres and an early collapse of the atmosphere prior to 2015 (exchange with early collapse, EEC). PNV and EPP are favored by stellar occultation data, but EEC cannot yet be definitively ruled out without more atmospheric modeling or additional occultation observations and analysis.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- April 2013
- Kuiper Belt objects: individual: Pluto;
- planets and satellites: individual: Pluto;
- Astrophysics - Earth and Planetary Astrophysics
- 23 pp. 3 figures, 2 tables. Submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters on 2012 Oct 29