Friday, September 23, 2016

New Horizons Constraints on Charon's Present Day Atmosphere


Stern et al


We report on a variety of standard techniques used by New Horizons including a solar ultraviolet occultation, ultraviolet airglow observations, and high-phase look-back particulate search imaging to search for an atmosphere around Pluto's large moon Charon during its flyby in July 2015. Analyzing these datasets, no evidence for a present day atmosphere has been found for 14 potential atomic and molecular species, all of which are now constrained to have pressures below 0.3 nanobar, as we describe below, these are much more stringent upper limits than the previously available 15-110 nanobar constraints (e.g., Sicardy et al. 2006); for example, we find a 3σ upper limit for an N2 atmosphere on Charon is 4.2 picobars and a 3σ upper limit for the brightness of any atmospheric haze on Charon of I/F=2.6x10−5. A radio occultation search for an atmosphere around Charon was also conducted by New Horizons but will be published separately by other authors.

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