NOV 17, 2019 09:18 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
DEC 11, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 11, 2019
Here's What We Know About the Big Bang and the Universe's Expansion
One of the most widely accepted notions regarding the formation of the universe is the Big Bang theory. In a nutshell, it’s a concept in which all of...
DEC 11, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 11, 2019
This ISS-Based Experiment Could Benefit Parkinson's Disease Patients
Astronauts on the International Space Station do a whole lot more than spacewalk and glance out the window at the beautiful planet Earth. They also conduct...
DEC 11, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 11, 2019
How Long Will it Be Before We Start Mining Asteroids?
The idea of mining an asteroid probably sounds like something right out of a science fiction movie, but as it turns out, it’s something that we&rsquo...
DEC 11, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 11, 2019
Watch SpaceX Fly its Starhopper Prototype 150 Meters in the Air
SpaceX conducted another test flight of its Starhopper prototype starship on Tuesday, this time flying it more than 150 meters in the air. Tuesday’s...
DEC 11, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 11, 2019
Martian Helicopter Attached to the Mars 2020 Rover Chassis
It seems like this past week was a particularly productive one for the team over at NASA. Not only were the two halves of the James Webb Space Telescope (J...
DEC 11, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 11, 2019
SpaceX's Starship Will Be a Game Changer for Deep Space
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly caught wind about SpaceX’s ambitious Starship project. Starship is still very...
Loading Comments...