In 1988, Pluto's atmosphere was surmised to exist because of the surface ices that had been detected through spectroscopy, but it had not yet been directly detected in a definitive manner. The key to making such a detection was the stellar occultation method, used so successfully for the discovery of the Uranian rings in 1977 (Elliot et al. 1989; Millis et al. 1993) and before that for studies of the atmospheres of other planets.On 9 June 1988, Pluto occulted a star, with its shadow falling over the South Pacific Ocean region. One team of observers recorded this event from the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, while other teams captured the event from various locations in Australia and New Zealand. Preceding this event, extensive astrometric observations of Pluto and the star were collected in order to refine the prediction.We will recount the investigations that led up to this important Pluto occultation, discuss the unexpected atmospheric results, and compare the 1988 event to the recent 2015 event whose shadow followed a similar track through New Zealand and Australia.
AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts #47
- Pub Date:
- November 2015