A Pluto-like radius and a high albedo for the dwarf planet Eris from an occultation

B. Sicardy, J. L. Ortiz, M. Assafin, E. Jehin, A. Maury, E. Lellouch, R. Gil Hutton, F. Braga-Ribas, F. Colas, D. Hestroffer, J. Lecacheux, F. Roques, P. Santos-Sanz, T. Widemann, N. Morales, R. Duffard, A. Thirouin, A. J. Castro-Tirado, M. Jelínek, P. KubánekA. Sota, R. Sánchez-Ramírez, A. H. Andrei, J. I.B. Camargo, D. N. Da Silva Neto, A. Ramos Gomes, R. Vieira Martins, M. Gillon, J. Manfroid, G. P. Tozzi, C. Harlingten, S. Saravia, R. Behrend, S. Mottola, E. García Melendo, V. Peris, J. Fabregat, J. M. Madiedo, L. Cuesta, M. T. Eibe, A. Ullán, F. Organero, S. Pastor, J. A. De Los Reyes, S. Pedraz, A. Castro, I. De La Cueva, G. Muler, I. A. Steele, M. Cebrián, P. Montañés-Rodríguez, A. Oscoz, D. Weaver, C. Jacques, W. J.B. Corradi, F. P. Santos, W. Reis, A. Milone, M. Emilio, L. Gutiérrez, R. Vázquez, H. Hernández-Toledo

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Abstract

The dwarf planet Eris is a trans-Neptunian object with an orbital eccentricity of 0.44, an inclination of 44 degrees and a surface composition very similar to that of Pluto. It resides at present at 95.7 astronomical units (1ĝ€‰au is the Earth-Sun distance) from Earth, near its aphelion and more than three times farther than Pluto. Owing to this great distance, measuring its size or detecting a putative atmosphere is difficult. Here we report the observation of a multi-chord stellar occultation by Eris on 6 November 2010 ut. The event is consistent with a spherical shape for Eris, with radius 1,163±6 kilometres, density 2.52±0.05 grams per cm 3 and a high visible geometric albedo,. No nitrogen, argon or methane atmospheres are detected with surface pressure larger than about 10,000 times more tenuous than Pluto's present atmosphere. As Pluto's radius is estimated to be between 1,150 and 1,200 kilometres, Eris appears as a Pluto twin, with a bright surface possibly caused by a collapsed atmosphere, owing to its cold environment. We anticipate that this atmosphere may periodically sublimate as Eris approaches its perihelion, at 37.8 astronomical units from the Sun. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-496
JournalNature
Volume478
Issue number7370
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2011

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    Sicardy, B., Ortiz, J. L., Assafin, M., Jehin, E., Maury, A., Lellouch, E., Hutton, R. G., Braga-Ribas, F., Colas, F., Hestroffer, D., Lecacheux, J., Roques, F., Santos-Sanz, P., Widemann, T., Morales, N., Duffard, R., Thirouin, A., Castro-Tirado, A. J., Jelínek, M., ... Hernández-Toledo, H. (2011). A Pluto-like radius and a high albedo for the dwarf planet Eris from an occultation. Nature, 478(7370), 493-496. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10550