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Should We Reconsider our View on Neptune’s Largest Moon?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:03
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(Before It's News)

Before it was eclipsed by Jupiter and Saturn’s ice-rich moons, Neptune’s largest moon Triton made a play to be recognized as one of the most interesting satellites in the solar system. But new research reveals Triton as a potential water-world. Large fractures on the surface hint towards a liquid ocean beneath the icy crust.

When Voyager 2 visited Neptune in 1989, it snapped the first images of Triton, revealing towering dark plumes and a tenuous nitrogen atmosphere. Few craters mar the crust, suggesting that something is resurfacing the young exterior. Triton’s density suggests a layer of ice or water only a few hundred kilometers thick.

“Triton is an interesting satellite. It was the first active satellite ever imaged,” says Terry Hurford, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Hurford examined the geyser-rich moon and found evidence that it may still have an ocean today. He presented his results at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences meeting in The Woodlands, Texas.

Today, ocean worlds abound in the solar system. Jupiter’s moon Europa hides an ocean beneath a thick icy crust. Two other Jupiter satellites, Ganymede and Callisto, are also considered ocean worlds. Saturn’s moon Enceladus not only carries an ocean but vents it through geysers at its southern pole, while another moon, Titan, boasts not only lakes and seas on the surface but a water-rich layer beneath the crust. Even tiny Pluto may hold a liquid ocean, while the subsurface water on its largest moon Charon has long since frozen.

After studying fractures on the surface and modeling how they may have evolved, Hurford thinks it’s time to add Triton to the club.


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