Atmospheric pressure on Pluto’s surface is 80,000 times lower than Earth’s, study finds, SCIENCE & TECH News
A team of scientists from India, Brazil and France managed to obtain the precise value of the atmospheric pressure of Pluto.
According to the study, Pluto’s atmospheric pressure on its surface is 80,000 times lower than that of Earth.
Astronomers analyzed atmospheric pressure on the surface by observing an occultation using the 3.6m Devasthal Optical Telescope, India’s largest optical telescope, and the 1. 3m.
The telescopes are based in the city of Nainital, in northern India, in the state of Uttarakhand.
In astronomy, an occultation occurs when a celestial object is hidden from view by the observer due to another celestial object passing between them.
A compilation of twelve stellar occultations by Pluto observed between 1988 and 2016 showed a monotonous triple increase in atmospheric pressure over that period, India’s Department of Science and Technology said in a statement.
The scientists, including members of the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), used signal-to-noise ratio light curves obtained from the sophisticated instruments used in the observations to derive an accurate value for atmospheric pressure from Pluto on its surface.
It turned out to be 12.23 μbar, which is 80,000 times less than atmospheric pressure at mean sea level on Earth. They also found that the surface pressure is near Pluto’s seasonal peak.
The study also confirms previous findings that Pluto suffers intense seasonal episodes due to a Great Depression, known as Sputnik Planitia.
Pluto’s poles remain permanently in sunlight or dark for decades during its long orbital period of 248 years, which has strong effects on its nitrogen atmosphere.
Moreover, as Pluto now moves away from the galactic plane as seen from Earth, stellar occultations by the dwarf planet are becoming increasingly rare, making this event a watershed event.
(With agency contributions)