Surface characterization of Pluto and Charon by L and M band spectra
Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max-Planck-Str. 2, 37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany e-mail: [protopapa;boehnhardt]@mps.mpg.de
2 Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 NASA Ames Research Center, Mail Stop 245-6, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA e-mail: Dale.P.Cruikshank@nasa.gov
4 Lowell Observatory, 1400 W. Mars Hill Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA e-mail: email@example.com
5 LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, 92195 Meudon Principal Cedex, France e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
6 Department of Space Studies, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, USA e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 8 July 2008
Context. One of the main scientific objectives of NASA's New Horizons mission is to map the icy surface compositions of Pluto and its moon Charon. The encounter will be in 2015. Meanwhile remote observations from earth and space are the most suitable means to enhance further our knowledge of the Pluto/Charon system.
Aims. We intend to assist the New Horizons mission by improving our knowledge of Pluto's and Charon's surface compositions. Specifically, we extend the wavelength coverage of the surface spectroscopy beyond the K band, with the goal to detect further surface ice absorption bands predicted from the models that are based on the available JHK spectra, and to search for signatures of yet unknown ices. In particular we aim to resolve the binary system Pluto/Charon and to obtain, for the first time, spectra up to 5 μm of the two objects resolved.
Methods. Spectroscopic measurements of Pluto/Charon taken with the adaptive optics instrument NACO at the ESO VLT in the interval 3–7 August 2005 were obtained. The nature and properties of the compounds present on the surface of Pluto and Charon are investigated by applying a Hapke radiative transfer model to the measured spectra.
Results. We present Pluto's reflectance spectrum in the wavelength range (1–5) μm. Apart from known and expected absorption bands of methane ice, our Pluto spectrum reveals a new absorption band centered near 4.6 μm, not previously detected. This absorption band could be related to the presence of CO and nitriles (compounds of C and N connected with a triple bond). A geographic mixture of pure methane ice with two different grain sizes, methane and CO ice diluted in nitrogen, CH2CHCN and titan tholin gives the best fit to Pluto's spectrum, although not in all details. Differences compared to published Pluto spectra from 2001 taken at similar longitude could be due to a different surface coverage in latitude or to a possible resurfacing process on Pluto. Charon's spectrum is measured in the wavelength range (1–4) μm. The surface of Charon can be modeled by pure water ice darkened by a spectrally neutral continuum absorber.
Key words: Kuiper Belt / techniques: spectroscopic / methods: numerical / scattering
© ESO, 2008