Stellar occultation investigations of Pluto's atmosphere
Author(s)Salyk, Colette Vanessa
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
Jim L. Elliot.
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We investigate the shape of Pluto's atmosphere using data from the occultation of the V=15.7 star P131.1 by Pluto on 2002 Aug 21 (UT). We find that Pluto's atmosphere, as projected onto the sky, is noticeably non-circular. This implies an overall ellipsoidal shape, which could be an indication of high winds and/or latitudinal stratification. We decide to compare our results to those obtained from datasets of the occultation of P8 by Pluto on 1988 June 9 (UT). Previous analyses of these datasets by Millis et al. (1993) had led to the conclusion that Pluto's atmospheric shape did not deviate from that of a sphere. However, we find that the 1988 datasets do not conclusively demonstrate that this is the case. We conclude that Pluto's atmosphere is currently non-spherical and could have been non-spherical at the time of the 1988 occultation. Implications for high winds and/or latitudinal stratification present exciting possibilities to be investigated by the upcoming New Horizons mission to Pluto.
Thesis: S.B., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, 2003.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis. Page 21 missing from original thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 27-28).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.