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Nature. 2003 Jul 10;424(6945):168-70.

Large changes in Pluto's atmosphere as revealed by recent stellar occultations.

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Observatoire de Paris, LESIA, 92195 Meudon, France.


Pluto's tenuous nitrogen atmosphere was first detected by the imprint left on the light curve of a star that was occulted by the planet in 1985 (ref. 1), and studied more extensively during a second occultation event in 1988 (refs 2-6). These events are, however, quite rare and Pluto's atmosphere remains poorly understood, as in particular the planet has not yet been visited by a spacecraft. Here we report data from the first occultations by Pluto since 1988. We find that, during the intervening 14 years, there seems to have been a doubling of the atmospheric pressure, a probable seasonal effect on Pluto.


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