The Detection of Eclipses in the Pluto-Charon System

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Science  07 Jun 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4704, pp. 1193-1195
DOI: 10.1126/science.228.4704.1193


The first eclipses between Pluto and its satellite ("Charon") were detected in January and February 1985, confirming the satellite's existence. Eclipses lasting a few hours will now occur at 3.2-day intervals for the next 5 to 6 years and then will cease for about 120 years. Careful observations of these eclipses will allow greatly improved determinations to be made of several physical parameters for the Pluto-Charon system: the diameters of the planet and satellite, the surface albedo distribution on one hemisphere of the planet, the orbit of the satellite, and the mass of the planet and hence its density. Knowledge of the density will provide a constraint on models of Pluto's bulk composition.