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Pluto Occultation: 18 March 2007
Alan Stern
post Mar 18 2007, 01:27 PM
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Reports from New Horizons co-investigator Cathy Olkin at the WIYN 3.5m telescope on Kitt Peak
in Arizona confirm that this morning's stellar occultation by Pluto was successfully observed there.
Tedd von Hippel at McDonald reports he and Eliot Young were fighting clouds in Texas. Numerous
other sites were participating. Scorecard results should follow over the next hours and days.
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tasp
post Mar 18 2007, 01:49 PM
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Nice to have a good occultation cross an existing facility with such a large aperture and high quality instruments. I wonder if any useful occultations might be seen from NH in the next several years?
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Alan Stern
post Mar 18 2007, 02:04 PM
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Occultation expert and NH Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Young is actually charged with checking
that out, both for potential LORRI (visible light) and Alice (UV) studies. Odds are long (until Pluto
gets big in the windshield ca. 2015, but we will know of any such "cruise science" events along the
way by 2008.
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nprev
post Mar 18 2007, 07:09 PM
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Alan, will these observations shed any light on the long-anticipated "collapse" of Pluto's atmosphere? I can't see any way to measure composition or temperature here, but is there a legacy baseline of density data to compare the results of the occultation?


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A few will take this knowledge and use this power of a dream realized as a force for change, an impetus for further discovery to make less ancient dreams real.
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Anne Verbiscer
post Mar 18 2007, 08:15 PM
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Alan, at what time did WIYN see the occultation? We were observing at Fan Mt. (near Charlottesville) Virginia (at K-band in the morning twilight) and may have caught a graze of the atmosphere, but did not appear to be in the shadow at all. The predicted path of Pluto's shadow should have been very much the same over Fan as it was over Kitt Peak.

-Anne
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Alan Stern
post Mar 18 2007, 09:43 PM
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Nprev-- The occultation gives a number density profile; knowing the
mean molecular weight (28 amu for N2 dominating), and using the
perfect gas law, one can also derive a temperature profile. These
can be compared to the 1985, 1988, 2002 and 2006 events to time
trend the atmospheric behavior and compare to models like Hansen
& Paige (1996).

-Alan
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Alan Stern
post Mar 18 2007, 09:45 PM
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Anne- Cathy didn't tell me the times but you could email her; just now
she should be on the flight home to DEN from AZ. I hope you got it
too.

-Alan
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nprev
post Mar 18 2007, 10:57 PM
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Interesting, and I understand now...thanks, Alan!


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