Image tube spectra of pluto and triton from 6800 to 9000 Å

D. Chris Benner, Uwe Fink, Richard H. Cromwell

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15 Scopus citations


To search for a possible atmosphere on Pluto and Triton, spectra of these objects as well as comparison stars were obtained with a three-stage Varo image tube for the spectral region from 6800 to 9000 Å. Ratio spectra indicate an absorption feature near 8900 Å, although the steeply diminishing response of the image tube at that wavelength casts some doubt on the reality of this feature. The feature appears more definitive in the spectrum of Pluto and less certain in the spectrum of Triton. The absorption was analyzed using our recently determined band-model parameters for methane. Under the assumption of a pressure higher than 0.01 atm an abundance of 3 m-amagat was determined. For pressures limited by the methane abundance itself, an abundance of 50 m-amagat and a pressure of 10-3 atm was derived (using g = 0.20 g⊕ for both Pluto and Triton). This pressure is close to the pressure that can be expected from the equilibrium vapor pressure of a methane frost. If the absorption at 8900 Å is spurious, our analysis will be applicable as an upper limit for the presence of methane gas on Pluto or Triton.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-91
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1978

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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