Pluto's interaction with its space environment: Solar wind, energetic particles, and dust

F. Bagenal, M. Horányi, D. J. McComas, R. L. McNutt, H. A. Elliott, M. E. Hill, L. E. Brown, P. A. Delamere, P. Kollmann, S. M. Krimigis, M. Kusterer, C. M. Lisse, D. G. Mitchell, M. Piquette, A. R. Poppe, D. F. Strobel, J. R. Szalay, P. Valek, J. Vandegriff, S. WeidnerE. J. Zirnstein, S. A. Stern, K. Ennico, C. B. Olkin, H. A. Weaver, L. A. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


The New Horizons spacecraft carried three instruments that measured the space environment near Pluto as it flew by on 14 July 2015. The Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument revealed an interaction region confined sunward of Pluto to within about 6 Pluto radii. The region's surprisingly small size is consistent with a reduced atmospheric escape rate, as well as a particularly high solar wind flux. Observations from the Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI) instrument suggest that ions are accelerated and/or deflected around Pluto. In the wake of the interaction region, PEPSSI observed suprathermal particle fluxes equal to about 1/10 of the flux in the interplanetary medium and increasing with distance downstream. The Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter, which measures grains with radii larger than 1.4 micrometers, detected one candidate impact in ±5 days around New Horizons' closest approach, indicating an upper limit of <4.6 kilometers-3 for the dust density in the Pluto system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereaad9045
Issue number6279
StatePublished - Mar 18 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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