NOV 17, 2019 9:18 AM PST

How Much Do You Know About Triton?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Far beyond the reach of the terrestrial and gas giant planets in our solar system exists an entirely different class of world known as ice giants. Uranus and Neptune are among this distinct class of chilly worlds, and astronomers have long been challenged to make close-up observations of these planets due to their sheer distance from the Earth. The closest we ever got was NASA’s Voyager 2 mission in the 70s, and it uncovered some particularly captivating details regarding Neptune’s largest natural satellite: Triton.

Triton is interesting because of its sheer size compared to other lunar bodies, and in the Neptunian system, it actually comprises of 99% of the lunar mass, with the other 1% being comprised of the rest of Neptune’s moons. The Voyager flyby also revealed what appeared to be frozen nitrogen and geysers erupting from the surface, which indicates some sort of geological activity from within.

Thanks to these geysers, Triton actually sports an atmosphere made almost entirely out of nitrogen. Albeit thin, the atmosphere is robust enough to support clouds, which are observable from up above. We can even observe winds on this distant world as those clouds are carried across the sky.

Another thing that makes Triton interesting to astronomers is its unique rotational pattern. While it appears tidally locked to Neptune just like the Moon is to Earth, it’s worth noting that Triton actually rotates in the opposite direction with regard to its parent planet. This observation, along with its unusual angle, gave rise to the idea that Triton may have once been a world in and of itself and was later stolen from space by Neptune’s gravitational influence.

Perhaps future missions will provide more insight into Triton’s unusual occurrence, but until now, its origins remain a mystery.

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAR 08, 2020
Space & Astronomy
2020 Has a Lot of Martian Missions in Store
MAR 08, 2020
2020 Has a Lot of Martian Missions in Store
Space agencies typically send missions to Mars once every several years, depending on the need for scientific exploratio ...
MAR 22, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Critical Sample Handling Equipment is Installed on the Perseverance Rover
MAR 22, 2020
Critical Sample Handling Equipment is Installed on the Perseverance Rover
It was only a couple of weeks ago that NASA’s Mars 2020 rover got renamed to the Perseverance rover, and with a la ...
MAR 30, 2020
Space & Astronomy
If Gravity Has Mass, This Could Explain Dark Energy
MAR 30, 2020
If Gravity Has Mass, This Could Explain Dark Energy
The Big Bang purportedly transpired 13.8 billion years ago, and even so, the universe continues to expand even today. Bu ...
APR 12, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Three New Crew Members Arrive at the International Space Station
APR 12, 2020
Three New Crew Members Arrive at the International Space Station
The International Space Station received three new crew members this past week following extensive pre-quarantine measur ...
APR 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
NASA Balances the Perseverance Rover's Chassis
APR 26, 2020
NASA Balances the Perseverance Rover's Chassis
Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida has been working tirelessly over the past seve ...
JUN 29, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Captures the 'Flapping' of Cosmic 'Wings'
JUN 29, 2020
Hubble Captures the 'Flapping' of Cosmic 'Wings'
The Hubble Space Telescope continues to send us incredible images of space. It has recently captured an image involving ...
Loading Comments...