Reports

Surface Ices and the Atmospheric Composition of Pluto

Science  06 Aug 1993:
Vol. 261, Issue 5122, pp. 745-748
DOI: 10.1126/science.261.5122.745

Abstract

Observations of the 1.4- to 2.4-micrometer spectrum of Pluto reveal absorptions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen ices and confirm the presence of solid methane. Frozen nitrogen is more abundant than the other two ices by a factor of about 50; gaseous nitrogen must therefore be the major atmospheric constituent. The absence of carbon dioxide absorptions is one of several differences between the spectra of Pluto and Triton in this region. Both worlds carry information about the composition of the solar nebula and the processes by which icy planetesimals formed.