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22 - Spectroscopy of Pluto and Its Satellites

from Part IV - Applications to Planetary Surfaces

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 November 2019

Janice L. Bishop
SETI Institute, California
James F. Bell III
Arizona State University
Jeffrey E. Moersch
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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The near-infrared reflectance spectra of Pluto and its satellites are rich with diagnostic absorption bands of ices of CH4, N2, CO, H2O, and an incompletely identified ammonia-bearing molecule. Following years of investigation of the spectra of Pluto and Charon with ground-based telescopes, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft obtained spectral maps of these bodies and three small satellites on its passage through the system on July 14, 2015, showing the distribution of these ices, as well as a colored, non-ice component. Spectral modeling mapped the distribution of the various ices and showed their abundance and mixing details in relationship to regions of differing surface elevation, albedo, and geologic structure. Additionally, owing to their greatly different degrees of volatility, the ices of Pluto are distributed in patterns responsive to Pluto’s climatic changes on both short and long terms. The surface of Charon is dominated spectrally by H2O ice with one or more ammoniated compounds, and three of the four very small satellites show both H2O ice and the ammonia signature.

Remote Compositional Analysis
Techniques for Understanding Spectroscopy, Mineralogy, and Geochemistry of Planetary Surfaces
, pp. 442 - 452
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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