PIA19716: Alice Solar Occultation
 Target Name:  Pluto
 Is a satellite of:  Sol (our sun)
 Mission:  New Horizons
 Spacecraft:  New Horizons
 Instrument:  Alice UVS
 Product Size:  1280 x 720 pixels (w x h)
 Produced By:  Johns Hopkins University/APL
 Full-Res TIFF:  PIA19716.tif (2.766 MB)
 Full-Res JPEG:  PIA19716.jpg (67.35 kB)

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Original Caption Released with Image:

This figure shows how the Alice instrument count rate changed over time during the sunset and sunrise observations. The count rate is largest when the line of sight to the sun is outside of the atmosphere at the start and end times. Molecular nitrogen (N2) starts absorbing sunlight in the upper reaches of Pluto's atmosphere, decreasing as the spacecraft approaches the planet's shadow. As the occultation progresses, atmospheric methane and hydrocarbons can also absorb the sunlight and further decrease the count rate. When the spacecraft is totally in Pluto's shadow the count rate goes to zero. As the spacecraft emerges from Pluto's shadow into sunrise, the process is reversed. By plotting the observed count rate in the reverse time direction, it is seen that the atmospheres on opposite sides of Pluto are nearly identical.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Image Credit:
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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