37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 55 Pluto and Charon
Poster, Thursday, September 8, 2005, 6:00-7:15pm, Music Recital Room

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[55.01] Sub-Arcsecond Scale Imaging of the Pluto/Charon Binary System at 1.4 mm

M.A. Gurwell (CfA), B.J. Butler (NRAO)

Determining the surface temperatures of Pluto and Charon places strong constraints on the types of ices stable on their surfaces. This in turn yields information on the composition of these bodies, and constrains models of solar system formation. Previous radio, millimeter, and submillimeter wavelength observations have not spatially resolved the pair (which have a maximum separation of just 0.9''), and have produced contradictory results regarding their surface temperatures. On 21 June 2005 we utilized the Submillimeter Array (SMA) in its most extended configuration to observe the Pluto-Charon system at 220 GHz (1.36 mm). With baselines up to 509 m, these observations achieved a resolution of ~.4'', allowing for the first time a direct measure of the thermal emission of each object separately. Direct visibility fitting of the data show the flux densities of Pluto and Charon to be 10.8±1.0 mJy and 3.6±1.0 mJy, respectively. Disk average Planck brightness temperatures (after a small correction for the CMB) are 38.0±3.0 K (Pluto) and 50±12 K (Charon). Assuming average surface emissivities of 0.9±0.1, these convert to average physical surface temperatures of 42±4 K for Pluto, and 56±14 K for Charon. These results are consistent with a model of Pluto's surface being 90±30% covered with N2 ice at 40 K, and Charon's surface being in equilibrium with solar insolation.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: mgurwell@cfa.harvard.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.