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Limits on the Radius and a Possible Atmosphere of Charon from its 1980 Stellar Occultation

J. Elliot
L. Young
Journal / Anthology

Year: 1991
Volume: 89
Issue: 2
Page range: 244-254

Stellar occultation data for Charon obtained by Walker (1980, Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 192, 47p-50p) have been fit by a model that includes possible differential refraction by an atmosphere, followed by an abrupt occultation by Charon's limb. We find a lower limit (3 sigma, where sigma = 0.8 km) on Charon's radius of 601.5 km, which can be used as a constraint for modeling the mutual event data. Although our model fits favor the possibility of a Charonian atmosphere (composition undetermined), the time resolution of the data is insufficient to be certain than an atmosphere indicative of (i) a slight extinction near Charon or (ii) an as yet unidentified effect, not associated with Charon. For the latter possibilities, we find an upper limit on a Charonian atmosphere of 1 to 57 cm-am, the exact amount depending on the gas assumed to be the major constituent.

*Science > Astronomy