36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 11 Pluto, Triton, and TNO Surfaces
Oral, Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 10:30am-12:00noon, Clark

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[11.01] Occultation Lightcurves for Selected Pluto Volatile Transport Models

L.A. Young (SWRI)

The stellar occultations by Pluto in 1988 and 2002 are demonstrably sensitive to changes in Pluto's atmosphere near one microbar (Elliot and Young 1992, AJ 103, 991; Elliot et al. 2003, Nature 424, 165; Sicardy 2003, Nature 424, 168). However, Pluto volatile-transport models focus on the changes in the atmospheric pressure at the surface (e.g., Hansen and Paige 1996, Icarus 20, 247; Stansberry and Yelle 1999, Icarus 141, 299). What's lacking is a connection between predictions about the surface properties and either temperature and pressure profiles measurable from stellar occultations, or the occultation light curve morphology itself. Radiative-conductive models can illuminate this connection.

I will illustrate how Pluto's changing surface pressure, temperature, and heliocentric distance may affect occultation light curves for a selection of existing volatile transport models. Changes in the light curve include the presence or absence of an observable ``kink'' (or departure from an isothermal light curve), the appearance of non-zero minimum flux levels, and the detectability of the solid surface. These light curves can serve as examples of what we may anticipate during the upcoming Pluto occultation season, as Pluto crosses the galactic plane.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.