Waves in Pluto's upper atmosphere

M. J. Person, J. L. Elliot, A. A S Gulbis, C. A. Zuluaga, B. A. Babcock, A. J. McKay, J. M. Pasachoff, S. P. Souza, William B. Hubbard, C. A. Kulesa, D. W. McCaarthy, S. D. Benecchi, S. E. Levine, A. S. Bosh, E. V. Ryan, W. H. Ryan, A. Meyer, J. Wolf, J. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Observations of the 2007 March 18 occultation of the star P445.3 (2UCAC 25823784; R = 15.3) by Pluto were obtained at high time resolution at five sites across the western United States and reduced to produce light curves for each station using standard aperture photometry. Global models of Pluto's upper atmosphere are fitted simultaneously to all resulting light curves. The results of these model fits indicate that the structure of Pluto's upper atmosphere is essentially unchanged since the previous occultation observed in 2006, leading to a well-constrained measurement of the atmospheric half-light radius at 1291 5 km. These results also confirm that the significant increase in atmospheric pressure detected between 1988 and 2002 has ceased. Inversion of the Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory light curves with unprecedented signal-to-noise ratios reveals significant oscillations in the number density, pressure, and temperature profiles of Pluto's atmosphere. Detailed analysis of this highest resolution light curve indicates that these variations in Pluto's upper atmospheric structure exhibit a previously unseen oscillatory structure with strong correlations of features among locations separated by almost 1200 km in Pluto's atmosphere. Thus, we conclude that these variations are caused by some form of large-scale atmospheric waves. Interpreting these oscillations as Rossby (planetary) waves allows us to establish an upper limit of less than 3 m s -1 for horizontal wind speeds in the sampled region (radius 1340-1460 km) of Pluto's upper atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1510-1518
Number of pages9
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume136
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008

Fingerprint

Pluto (planet)
Pluto
upper atmosphere
light curve
Pluto atmosphere
occultation
oscillations
radii
oscillation
profiles
planetary waves
temperature profiles
atmospheric structure
photometry
atmospheric wave
atmospheric pressure
observatories
atmosphere
planetary wave
signal to noise ratios

Keywords

  • Occultations
  • Planets and satellites: individual (Pluto)
  • Waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this

Person, M. J., Elliot, J. L., Gulbis, A. A. S., Zuluaga, C. A., Babcock, B. A., McKay, A. J., ... Hill, J. (2008). Waves in Pluto's upper atmosphere. Astronomical Journal, 136(4), 1510-1518. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-6256/136/4/1510

Waves in Pluto's upper atmosphere. / Person, M. J.; Elliot, J. L.; Gulbis, A. A S; Zuluaga, C. A.; Babcock, B. A.; McKay, A. J.; Pasachoff, J. M.; Souza, S. P.; Hubbard, William B.; Kulesa, C. A.; McCaarthy, D. W.; Benecchi, S. D.; Levine, S. E.; Bosh, A. S.; Ryan, E. V.; Ryan, W. H.; Meyer, A.; Wolf, J.; Hill, J.

In: Astronomical Journal, Vol. 136, No. 4, 01.10.2008, p. 1510-1518.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Person, MJ, Elliot, JL, Gulbis, AAS, Zuluaga, CA, Babcock, BA, McKay, AJ, Pasachoff, JM, Souza, SP, Hubbard, WB, Kulesa, CA, McCaarthy, DW, Benecchi, SD, Levine, SE, Bosh, AS, Ryan, EV, Ryan, WH, Meyer, A, Wolf, J & Hill, J 2008, 'Waves in Pluto's upper atmosphere', Astronomical Journal, vol. 136, no. 4, pp. 1510-1518. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-6256/136/4/1510
Person MJ, Elliot JL, Gulbis AAS, Zuluaga CA, Babcock BA, McKay AJ et al. Waves in Pluto's upper atmosphere. Astronomical Journal. 2008 Oct 1;136(4):1510-1518. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-6256/136/4/1510
Person, M. J. ; Elliot, J. L. ; Gulbis, A. A S ; Zuluaga, C. A. ; Babcock, B. A. ; McKay, A. J. ; Pasachoff, J. M. ; Souza, S. P. ; Hubbard, William B. ; Kulesa, C. A. ; McCaarthy, D. W. ; Benecchi, S. D. ; Levine, S. E. ; Bosh, A. S. ; Ryan, E. V. ; Ryan, W. H. ; Meyer, A. ; Wolf, J. ; Hill, J. / Waves in Pluto's upper atmosphere. In: Astronomical Journal. 2008 ; Vol. 136, No. 4. pp. 1510-1518.
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