PerspectivePlanetary Science

Lensing by Triton's Atmosphere

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Science  17 Oct 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5337, pp. 403-404
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5337.403

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When a planetary object passes between an observer and a distant star, the planet's atmosphere can refract the starlight to cause a "central flash," or temporary focusing of the light. In his Perspective, Hubbard discusses results reported in the same issue by Elliot et al. in which a central flash was seen for Neptune's moon Triton. By carefully studying the nature of the flash, one can learn a great deal about the atmospheric properties of the moon. These new results suggest that Triton's atmosphere is complex and dynamic.