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Radio Signals from Earth Probe Pluto’s Atmosphere

13 Nov 2015, 17:23 UTC
Radio Signals from Earth Probe Pluto’s Atmosphere
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Today’s post is from William Woods, a doctoral candidate in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. He investigates radioscience and remote sensing, with a focus on signal processing for the radioscience experiment (REX) onboard New Horizons. He studies both engineering and science under Dr. Ivan Linscott and Dr. Howard Zebker at Stanford.
I study remote sensing and signal processing for the radioscience experiment (REX) onboard New Horizons. REX performs three experiments at the Pluto system. The first is radio occultation, in which NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) and REX form a radar system that probes the atmosphere of the occulting body. REX performs radio occultation on both Pluto and Charon that yields estimates of atmospheric temperature and pressure as a function of altitude. REX also performs thermal scans of Pluto and Charon. Thermal scans passively measure blackbody radiation emitted by the target in order to estimate surface temperature. Finally, REX data estimates mass of the entire Pluto system by measuring curvature in New Horizons trajectory due to local gravity conditions.
The spreading of energy as it travels through the atmosphere to REX severely limits spatial resolution of raw radio occultation data. Without extensive post-processing this resolution can be thousands of times ...

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