NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2007A-0312

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Proposal Information for 2007A-0312


PI: Catherine Olkin, Southwest Research Institute, colkin@boulder.swri.edu
Address: Department of Space Studies, 1050 Walnut Street, Suite 400, Boulder, CO 80302, United States

CoI: Leslie A. Young, Southwest Research Institute

Title: Characterizing Pluto's Atmosphere with Observations of the March 8, 2007 Stellar Occultation

Abstract: Three noteworthy changes have occurred since the first observation of a stellar occultation by Pluto in 1988. The most obvious change has been the rapid increase in Pluto's column abundance between the occultations in 1988 and 2002, confirmed by an occultation in 2006. There has also been a large-scale change in the vertical structure of Pluto's atmosphere, manifested in the qualitative change in the "kink" that was prominent in the 1988 event. Finally, the large "spikes" in the 2006 lightcurve are not noise; they are the result of resolved density variations in Pluto's vertical profile. These spikes are not present in the 1988 lightcurves. All three changes are illustrated in Figure 1, an annotated comparison of a 1988 and 2006 lightcurves. All three changes raise significant questions that we will address through the proposed observations of the upcoming occultation of 18 March 2007 (UT) from WIYN observatory.


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