Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dr. David Brain

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) outnumber other bodies within our Solar System; however, studies of KBO evolution are limited. Pluto makes a good candidate for studying KBO evolution, since Pluto is moving farther away from the Sun: therefore, we expect to see ongoing changes in the atmosphere and on its surface due to the extreme shifts Pluto will be experiencing. To search for these changes and minimize the effects of rotational phase and viewing geometry, we observe Pluto at approximately the same sub-observer latitude and longitude, a “matched pair” system. We investigated how methane absorption features changed over the course of one to three Earth-years. We found that there are many significant increases in methane across Pluto’s surface, which may be coming from the atmosphere. We cannot say whether this supports the model of Bertrand & Forget (2016), nor can we say whether the mechanism for increase is atmospheric collapse or something else. We present these results and the journey it was to obtain them.

Available for download on Friday, April 09, 2021