LPL Colloquium: Dr. Leslie Young

Think Globally, Act Locally: How Pluto's Surface Responds to Atmospheric Pressure Changes

Dr. Leslie Young
Principal Scientist
Southwest Research Institute, Boulder

The New Horizons flyby of Pluto in 2015 not only revealed a remarkable variety of terrain types, but also measured elevation and composition. Three volatile species—N2, CO, and CH4—had been previously detected from the ground.  New Horizons allowed us to map their locations, and the previously undetected nonvolatile H­­2O. From this, we find that the large volatile-filled basin centered just north of the equator dominates the global atmospheric surface pressure, which changes dramatically over the course of a Pluto orbit. Faced with changes in insolation and pressure, volatiles alter the appearance of the surface. A particularly interesting case is the mid-latitudes (35°N to 60°N), where N2 dominates in depression bottoms, and CH4 dominates in the uplands.

Host: Dr. Walter Harris


October 29, 2019 3:45pm