Surface compositions across Pluto and Charon

W. M. Grundy, R. P. Binzel, B. J. Buratti, J. C. Cook, D. P. Cruikshank, C. M. Dalle Ore, A. M. Earle, K. Ennico, C. J. A. Howett, A. W. Lunsford, C. B. Olkin, A. H. Parker, S. Philippe, S. Protopapa, E. Quirico, D. C. Reuter, B. Schmitt, K. N. Singer, A. J. Verbiscer, R. A. Beyer, M. W. Buie, A. F. Cheng, D. E. Jennings, I. R. Linscott, J. Wm. Parker, P. M. Schenk, J. R. Spencer, J. A. Stansberry, S. A. Stern, H. B. Throop, C. C. C. Tsang, H. A. Weaver, G. E. Weigle, L. A. Young. Science 351, aad9189 (2016).


The New Horizons spacecraft mapped colors and infrared spectra across the encounter hemispheres of Pluto and Charon. The volatile methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen ices that dominate Pluto’s surface have complicated spatial distributions resulting from sublimation, condensation, and glacial flow acting over seasonal and geological time scales. Pluto’s water ice “bedrock” was also mapped, with isolated outcrops occurring in a variety of settings. Pluto’s surface exhibits complex regional color diversity associated with its distinct provinces. Charon’s color pattern is simpler, dominated by neutral low latitudes and a reddish northern polar region. Charon’s near-infrared spectra reveal highly localized areas with strong ammonia absorption tied to small craters with relatively fresh-appearing impact ejecta.

PDF (3.5Mb), supplemental material (2.7Mb).

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