DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 36. Asteroid Dynamics II
Poster, Highlighted on, Friday, September 5, 2003, 3:30-6:00pm, Sierra Ballroom I-II

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[36.03] Pluto-Charon: a test of the astrometric approach for finding asteroid satellites

J.-B. Kikwaya (Vatican Observatory Research Group), W. Thuillot, J. Berthier (IMCCE/Paris Observatory)

The astrometric method to find asteroid satellites is based on the search for the reflex effect on the primary object due to the orbital motion of a possible satellite (Monet & Monet 1998, Kikwaya et al. 2002). As reported by Kikwaya et al. (2003), the astrometric signature of a satellite of 146 Lucina may reach several mas. Spectral analysis might then detect the signal under good conditions of signal/noise ratio, with high quality astrometric measurements and large coverage by different sites of observation.

However, the astrometric method cannot be applied to any binary system of asteroids. It depends strongly on the mass ratio of the two bodies and the distance between them (Kikwaya et al. 2002). Pluto-Charon provides a good test of this method. Previous works based on direct imaging of Charon show that its period is 6.357 days and the mass ratio is 0.122 (Wasserman et al. 2000), putting this system into the range that can be observed by our method.

Using archived photographic observations (1914-1995) and CCD observations from US Naval Observatory, Flagstaff station (1995-1998), Bordeaux observatory (1996-1997) and Mc Donald Observatory (1997), we are analyzing the position of Pluto to see if its wobble effect due to Charon (amplitude around 95 mas) can be detected and if the orbital period of Charon can be recovered through a spectral analysis. If successful, this will reinforce the ability of our astrometric method to find asteroid satellites.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.