31st Annual Meeting of the DPS, October 1999
Session 65. Outer Planet Atmospheres
Contributed Oral Parallel Session, Friday, October 15, 1999, 8:30-10:00am, Sala Kursaal

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[65.06] Adaptive Optics Imaging of Neptune with the W.M. Keck Telescope

B. Macintosh, C.E. Max (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), H. Roe (U.C. Berkeley), S. Gibbard, D. Gavel (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), S. Acton, O. Lai, P. Wizinowich (California Association for Research in Astronomy), I. de Pater (U.C. Berkeley), A. Ghez (U.C.L.A.), K. Baines (JPL)

We present near-IR images of Neptune with a resolution of 0.05 arcseconds obtained with the new adaptive optics (AO) system at the 10-m W.M. Keck II telescope. The resolution and contrast of these images allows us to fit radiative transfer models to Neptune's clear atmosphere, completely uncontaminated by scattered light from bright storms or bands. We can measure for the first time the precise infrared spatial extent of storm features and calculate their reflectance in broad-band and methane-absorption near-IR bandpasses. The images show many bands and cloud features, and detect a bright southern-hemisphere complex that may be associated with a large dark spot similar to that seen by Voyager. These observations demonstrate that AO on an 8-10 meter telescope is a powerful new tool for studying objects in the outer solar system, surpassing the resolution of the NICMOS instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 2-4.

This research was performed under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under Contract W-7405-ENG-48. It was supported in part by NASA grant NRA-97-OSS-04-98-053(R3281).

The adaptive optics system on the Keck II telescope was funded by the W.M. Keck foundation under a grant to the California Association for Research in Astronomy, and by NASA.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: bmac@igpp.llnl.gov

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