Improved Orbital and Physical Parameters for the Pluto-Charon System

Science  31 Jul 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4814, pp. 512-514
DOI: 10.1126/science.237.4814.512


Analysis of the observations of several Pluto-Charon occultation and transit events in 1985 and 1986 has provided a more detailed knowledge of the system. The sum of the radii of Pluto and Charon is 1786 ± 19 kilometers, but the individual radii are somewhat more poorly determined; Pluto is 1145 ± 46 kilometers in radius and Charon is 642 ± 34 kilometers in radius. The mean density of the system is 1.84 ± 0.19 grams per cubic centimeter, implying that more than half of the mass is due to rock. Charon appears to have hemispheres of two different colors, the Plutofacing side being neutral in color and the opposite hemisphere being a reddish color similar to Pluto.