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Scientists Meet at PSI to Discuss Pluto, Triton Occultations

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PSI’s Amanda Sickafoose and Stephen Levine of Lowell Observatory discuss an intriguing feature in a light curve from a stellar occultation by Quaoar during the meeting.

PSI hosted a meeting of Senior Scientist Amanda Sickafoose and four other scientists who studied and discussed data collected for stellar occultations by small bodies in the outer Solar System.  Among the events discussed were the occultation of a G=13.0 mag star by Pluto on June 1, 2022 and of a G=11.6 mag star by Neptune’s moon Triton on 06 October 6, 2022.

Sickafoose met with Stephen Levine (Lowell Observatory), Michael Person (MIT), Karsten Schindler, and Bastian Knieling (Deutsches SOFIA Institute/University of Stuttgart). Members of the team had traveled to Australia and Japan last year to take data for the Pluto and Triton events. A specific focus of the meeting was understanding how Pluto and Triton’s atmospheres are evolving with time. The group also discussed occultation data for multiple other bodies, including trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). Collaborative observations included those taken with the 2.7-meter telescope on SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy; and the 0.6-meter ATUS (the Astronomical Telescope of the Univ. of Stuttgart;

This meeting provided a time away from the visitors’ home institutions to allow valuable face-to-face discussions and to encourage focus on in-progress manuscripts.  It was also a starting point for new journal articles on these occultations.

The work was funded in part by grants from NASA’s Solar System Observations program and MISTI GSF (MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives Global Seed Fund).

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Above, the team works in the PSI West Wing Conference Room.

Below, the team, from left: Stephen Levine, Karsten Schindler, Bastian Knieling, Michael Person, and Amanda Sickafoose.

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April 9, 2023
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