SMA Research: Solar System

The solar system is comprised of a variety of bodies, from giant planets like Jupiter to the smallest asteroids and everything in between. Astronomers use the Submillimeter Array to measure both the thermal emission from solar system objects and spectral lines from their atmospheres. These measurements allow one to infer surface temperatures as well as atmospheric composition, thermal structure, and dynamics on bodies as diverse as Neptune, Mars, Titan, and Pluto.

Solar System Science with the SMA


Mark Gurwell, Arielle Moullet, Charlie Qi


On-going collaborators:
Bryan Butler, Mark Hofstadter, Emmanuel Lellouch, Raphael Moreno, Glenn Orton

  Image of Pluto

This is the first image ever obtained of the Pluto-Charon system that resolves the pair at a thermal wavelength; e.g. measuring just the heat of the individual bodies, not reflected solar energy, and was obtained in May 2005 using the Submillimeter Array, at 220 GHz.

Learn more.

Figure Source: Gurwell, M.A., and Butler, B.J. 2005. "Subarcecond Scale Imaging of the Pluto/Charon Binary System at 1.4 mm", 37th Annual Meeting of the AAS Division for Planetay Sciences, Cambridge, UK, #55.01