PC20120710 Occultation July 10, 2012

(last updated 2012 05 31)



Across the globe pictured above, the three solid lines correspond to the northern limit, centerline, and southern limit of Pluto's shadow (Charon = red). The northern and southern limits correspond to a radius of 1400 km (605 km for Charon). The upper and lower dashed lines indicate 3-sigma errors. The shaded area represents where the sun is more than 12 degrees below the horizon.
Table 1: Prediction Details
Pluto Geocentric Mid-time (yyyy month dd hh:mm:ss)

2012 July 10 19:04:49± 00:00:411 UT

Charon Geocentric Mid-time (yyyy month dd hh:mm:ss)

2012 July 10 18:53:51± 00:00:411 UT

Pluto Minimum Geocentric Separation 0.231± 0.0291 arcsec
Charon Minimum Geocentric Separation 0.077± 0.0291 arcsec
Position Angle (Pluto relative to the star; measured north through east) 171.72 degrees
Geocentric Velocity 23.45 km/sec
Occultation Star UCAC2 magnitude 15.462

1One standard deviation of random error.
2The UCAC bandpass (579-642nm) is between V and R.

Table 2: Reference Star Position
Reference star position:
(UCAC2, at epoch of event)
RA (h:m:s; J2000) Dec (d:m:s; J2000) Notes
PC20120710 Catalog 18 32 59.9480± 0.182 –19 22 43.1652± 0.162
PC20120710 Measured3 18 32 59.9443± 0.0145 –19 22 43.0954± 0.018
From 10 0.9-m SMARTS Telescope frames. See note 4.
Table 3: Projected KBO Offsets from Reference Ephemeris at the Time of the Event
Body RA (arcsec) Dec (arcsec)  

–0.1106± 0.058

+0.249± 0.022 See Notes 5 and 6

3Measured position corresponds to RA offset of –0.0556'' and Dec. offset of +0.0698''.

4All "offsets" are defined in the ("corrected" – "reference") or ("observed" – "calculated") sense. The offsets should be added to reference positions to get the measured positions, which we use to calculate the prediction.

4Data analyzed using UCAC2 reference network. A weighted average of the data from the two telescopes was used to calculate the RA and DEC. The errors given are 1 standard deviation.

5The reference positions for Pluto and Charon are those given by JPL Horizon's ephemeris (Pluto source file: PLU017; Earth center source file: DE405). Our residual model is based on the assumption that the same offsets in RA and Dec apply to both Pluto and Charon.

6Data from the du Pont 2.5m, USNO 61-inch, and Lowell Astrograph telescopes over the span of 6 years were reduced with respect to stars in the UCAC2 catalog. A model was developed to fit the residuals obtained from our measured positions compared to that of the object's JPL ephemeris. All residuals obtained from the different telescopes were consistent with the model. The model includes the first-order effects of errors in the orbital elements of Pluto: (i) constant offsets in RA and Dec, (ii) linear (in time) offsets in RA and Dec, (iii) sinusoidal terms with the Earth's orbital period, and (iv) sinusoidal terms with the Pluto-Charon mutual orbit. The model was propagated to obtain the predicted position and error of the Pluto at the time of the occultation. The errors listed for the Pluto are the RMS of the models fitted.


Table 4: Site Information

East Longitude

Site Altitude6


Pluto Distance7


Charon Distance7




ATOM (Namibia)
16 30 00
–23 16 18
4833 N.
1275 N.
20 48 36
–32 22 54
3893 N.
349 N.
center of Earth
5228 N.
1750 N.

6Altitude of each observatory is measured in kilometers above sea level.

7"Distance" refers to the closest approach distance of the "Site" to the center of Pluto's/Charon's shadow in the shadow plane. The errors on all closest approach distances are ±1053 km (one standard deviation). "S." means the site is south of the center of Pluto's shadow. "N." means the site is north of the center of Pluto's shadow.

Table 5: PC20120710 Occultation Predictions for Individual Sites

Charon Immersion (UT)9
Charon UT Mid-Time

Charon Emersion

Pluto Immersion (UT)9
Pluto UT Mid-Time

Pluto Emersion (UT)9

Pluto Altitude
Solar Altitude9
ATOM (Namibia)

9The errors on all times are ±0:41 (41 seconds; one standard deviation). The solar altitude is given for locations where it is relevant (solar altitude greater than -18°). No entry in the immersion and emersion columns indicates that the occultation is not predicted to be visible at that site.


Last updated by Carlos Zuluaga (czuluaga@mit.edu) 2012-05-31 02:55

Please direct all inquiries to PAL (planetary-astronomy@mit.edu)