NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2006A-0419

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Proposal Information for 2006A-0419


PI: Catherine B. 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
CoI: Eliot F. Young, Southwest Research Institute
CoI: Steve Heathcote, CTIO

Title: Measuring Seasonal Change on Pluto by Stellar Occultation

Abstract: Stellar occultations provide a means to probe Pluto's atmosphere with high spatial resolution. Using this technique, it was found that Pluto's atmospheric pressure has doubled from 1988 to 2002. This was a surprise to many since Pluto's frosts were expected to cool as Pluto moves away from the Sun (perihelion was in 1989), and its atmosphere, in vapor-pressure equilibrium with the surface ices, was expected to collapse. An occultation of the star P363 (McDonald and Elliot, 2000 AJ, 119, 1999) is predicted to be observable from SOAR and Magellan on 2006 April 10 (UT). We are proposing to observe in the visible from SOAR using our portable high-speed occultation systems and in the near infrared with Magellan using PANIC. Using these two wavelengths, we will be able to probe Pluto's lower atmosphere for haze as well as quantitatively assess the change in Pluto's atmospheric pressure.


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