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24 September 2021
  » arxiv » 1604.5356

 Article overview

The Atmosphere of Pluto as Observed by New Horizons
G. Randall Gladstone ; S. Alan Stern ; Kimberly Ennico ; Catherine B. Olkin ; Harold A. Weaver ; Leslie A. Young ; Michael E. Summers ; Darrell F. Strobel ; David P. Hinson ; Joshua A. Kammer ; Alex H. Parker ; Andrew J. Steffl ; Ivan R. Linscott ; Joel Wm. Parker ; Andrew F. Cheng ; David C. Slater ; Maarten H. Versteeg ; Thomas K. Greathouse ; Kurt D. Retherford ; Henry Throop ; Nathaniel J. Cunningham ; William W. Woods ; Kelsi N. Singer ; Constantine C. C. Tsang ; Eric Schindhelm ; Carey M. Lisse ; Michael L. Wong ; Yuk L. Yung ; Xun Zhu ; Werner Curdt ; Panayotis Lavvas ; Eliot F. Young ; G. Leonard Tyler ; New Horizons Science Team ;
Date 18 Apr 2016
AbstractObservations made during the New Horizons flyby provide a detailed snapshot of the current state of Pluto’s atmosphere. While the lower atmosphere (at altitudes <200 km) is consistent with ground-based stellar occultations, the upper atmosphere is much colder and more compact than indicated by pre-encounter models. Molecular nitrogen (N$_2$) dominates the atmosphere (at altitudes <1800 km or so), while methane (CH$_4$), acetylene (C$_2$H$_2$), ethylene (C$_2$H$_4$), and ethane (C$_2$H$_6$) are abundant minor species, and likely feed the production of an extensive haze which encompasses Pluto. The cold upper atmosphere shuts off the anticipated enhanced-Jeans, hydrodynamic-like escape of Pluto’s atmosphere to space. It is unclear whether the current state of Pluto’s atmosphere is representative of its average state--over seasonal or geologic time scales.
Source arXiv, 1604.5356
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