Composition of Pluto’s Small Satellites: Analysis of New Horizons Spectral Images

1Jason C. Cook et al. (>10)
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article []
1Pinhead Institute, Telluride, CO, USA
Copyright Elsevier

On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountered the Pluto-system. Using the near-infrared spectral imager, New Horizons obtained the first spectra of Nix, Hydra, and Kerberos and detected the 1.5 and 2.0 μm bands of H2O-ice on all three satellites. On Nix and Hydra, New Horizons also detected bands at 1.65 and 2.21 μm that indicate crystalline H2O-ice and an ammoniated species, respectively. A similar band linked to NH3-hydrate has been detected on Charon previously. However, we do not detect the 1.99 μm band of NH3-hydrate. We consider NH4Cl (ammonium chloride), NH4NO3 (ammonium nitrate) and (NH4)2CO3 (ammonium carbonate) as potential candidates, but lack sufficient laboratory measurements of these and other ammoniated species to make a definitive conclusion. We use the observations of Nix and Hydra to estimate the surface temperature and crystalline H2O-ice fraction. We find surface temperatures  < 20 K ( < 70 K with 1-σ error) and 23 K ( < 150 K with 1-σ error) for Nix and Hydra, respectively. We find crystalline H2O-ice fractions of 78−22+12% and  > 30% for Nix an Hydra, respectively. New Horizons observed Nix and Hydra twice, about 2-3 hours apart, or 5 and 25% of their respective rotation periods. We find no evidence for rotational differences in the disk-averaged spectra between the two observations of Nix or Hydra. We perform a pixel-by-pixel analysis of Nix’s disk-resolved spectra and find that the surface is consistent with a uniform crystalline H2O-ice fraction, and a  ∼ 50% variation in the normalized band area of the 2.21 μm band with a minimum associated with the red blotch seen in color images of Nix. Finally, we find evidence for bands on Nix and Hydra at 2.42 and possibly 2.45 μm, which we cannot identify, and, if real, do not appear to be associated with the ammoniated species. We do not detect other ices, such as CO2, CH3OH and HCN.


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