Status Report

New Constraints on Pluto’s Sputnik Planitia Ice Sheet from a Coupled Reorientation-Climate Model

By SpaceRef Editor
September 23, 2021
Filed under , ,

Perianne E. Johnson, James T. Keane, Leslie A. Young, Isamu Matsuyama

We present a coupled reorientation and climate model, to understand how true polar wander (TPW) and atmospheric condensation worked together to create the Sputnik Planitia (SP) ice sheet and reorient it to its present-day location on Pluto. SP is located at 18 N, 178 E, very close to the anti-Charon point, and it has been previously shown that this location can be explained by TPW reorientation of an impact basin as it fills with N2 ice. We readdress that hypothesis while including a more accurate treatment of Pluto’s climate and orbital obliquity cycle. Our model again finds that TPW is a viable mechanism for the formation and present-day location of SP. We find that the initial impact basin could have been located north of the present-day location, at latitudes between 35 N and 50 N. The empty basin is constrained to be 2.5 — 3 km deep, with enough N2 available to form at most a 1 — 2 km thick ice sheet. Larger N2 inventories reorient too close to the anti-Charon point. After reaching the final location, the ice sheet undergoes short periods of sublimation and re-condensation on the order of ten meters of ice, due Pluto’s variable obliquity cycle, which drives short periods of reorientation of a few km. The obliquity cycle also has a role in the onset of infilling; some initial basin locations are only able to begin accumulating N2 ice at certain points during the obliquity cycle. We also explore the sensitivity of the coupled model to albedo, initial obliquity, and Pluto’s orbit.

Comments: Accepted for publication in PSJ

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Journal reference: Planet. Sci. J., 2, 194 (2021)

DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/ac1d42

Cite as: arXiv:2109.11479 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2109.11479v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history

From: Perianne Johnson

[v1] Thu, 23 Sep 2021 16:33:58 UTC (1,784 KB)

SpaceRef staff editor.