Long-wavelength density fluctuations resolved in Pluto's high atmosphere

D. W. McCarthy, W. B. Hubbard, C. A. Kulesa, S. D. Benecchi, M. J. Person, J. L. Elliot, A. A.S. Gulbis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Near-infrared measurements of the occultation of star P445.3 by Pluto on 2007 March 18 reveal that Pluto's upper atmosphere (200-400 km altitude) is unexpectedly dynamic. At a wavelength of 1.6 μm, numerous vertical fluctuations (8-20 km) of density are detected with unprecedented signal-to-noise ratio. These fluctuations are achromatic, nearly limb-aligned, and fully resolved along a 1000 km path over a pressure range of 0.1-0.7 μbar (0.01 to 0.07 Pa). Vertical wavelength increases with altitude indicating a high-frequency cutoff operating on a broad-band spectrum of buoyancy ("gravity") waves generated deeper in Pluto's atmosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1519-1522
Number of pages4
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008


  • Kuiper Belt
  • Occultations
  • Planets and satellites: individual (Pluto)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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