Astrometry of Iapetus, Ariel, Umbriel, and Titania from eclipses and occultations

Anthony Mallama, Mitsuru Sôma, Pedro V. Sada, Robert J. Modic, Chad K. Ellington

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Highly accurate astrometric positions obtained from eclipses and occultations of planetary satellites are reported. These measurements may be used to test existing ephemerides, to improve upon them, and to fit system constants such as satellite masses and planetary zonal harmonics. Eclipse and occultation photometry of 5 uranian satellite mutual events has resulted in precise astrometry for 3 of these moons. Relative satellite positions were determined with an uncertainty of less than 10 milli-arcseconds for 4 of the events. These observations plus two additional data from C. Miller and N.J. Chanover (private communication) indicate that predictions based on the SPICE [Acton, C.H., 1996. Planet. Space Sci. 44, 65-70] ephemeris URA083 and those from the LA06 ephemeris in a paper by Arlot et al. [Arlot, J.-E., Lainey, V., Thuillot, W., 2006. Astron. Astrophys. 456, 1173-1179] are significantly more accurate than predictions generated by Christou [Christou, A.A., 2005. Icarus 178, 171-178] using the GUST86 ephemeris in the along-track component of motion. The observations indicate that Ariel, Umbriel and Titania are lagging behind their predicted positions for all of the ephemerides, but by varying distances and significance levels. Analysis of data recorded by Hidas et al. [Hidas, M.G., Christou, A.A., Brown, T.M., 2008. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 384, L38-L40] suggests a similar lag for Oberon. Photometry recorded during the ingress portion of a saturnian eclipse of Iapetus on 2007 May 5 indicates that the middle of the event occurred at geocentric UTC 02:14:58. At that moment the center of the satellite disk facing the Sun was intersected by a solar-centered ray refracted at a minimum altitude of 240 km above the 1-bar pressure level in the planet's atmosphere. The uncertainty in the timings due to observational scatter was only 5 s which equates to 16 km of Iapetus motion, but other factors increased the overall uncertainty to 111 km or 16 milli-arcseconds at the distance of Saturn from the Sun. The astrometric result is fit very well by the SPICE ephemeris SAT288.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-270
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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