The Surface Composition of Charon: Tentative Identification of Water Ice

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Science  11 Sep 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4820, pp. 1349-1351
DOI: 10.1126/science.237.4820.1349


The 3 March 1987 Charon occultation by Pluto was observed in the infrared at 1.5, 1.7, 2.0, and 2.35 micrometers. Subtraction of fluxes measured between second and third contacts from measurements made before and after the event has yielded individual spectral signatures for each body at these wavelengths. Charon's surface appears depleted in methane relative to Pluto. Constancy of flux at 2.0 micrometers throughout the event shows that Charon is effectively black at this wavelength, which is centered on a very strong water absorption band. Thus, the measurements suggest the existence of water ice on Pluto's moon.