Scientists suggest Triton could be an ‘ocean world’

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists believe that Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, could be an “ocean world”. Researchers suggest that on Triton, under a solid crust of ice, there may be an ocean with liquid water.

“If this is the case, and if we can ever reach this ocean and find life, it would expand the habitable zone to the Kuiper belt, and not just to the inner solar system. This has profound implications for both our solar system and exoplanets,” said a planetary scientist.

Triton is only the third known volcanic planetary body in the solar system, besides Earth and Jupiter’s moon Io. Unlike the geysers of Enceladus, which are thought to be caused by tidal heating, Triton’s geysers are the result of solar heating.

Dim sunlight causes the frozen nitrogen on the moon’s surface to slowly melt and eventually erupt. Active geology also explains the lack of craters on its surface.

“Triton has a nitrogen atmosphere that freezes seasonally in the polar caps.”

“Earth also has an atmosphere made up mostly of nitrogen – can you imagine if our atmosphere would freeze in winter? However, the atmosphere of Triton is rarefied, winds blow and carry particles over the surface.

Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to visit Triton back in 1989. Another NASA mission to study Triton, known as TRIDENT, was selected as a finalist in 2020 but was ultimately rejected in NASA’s 2021 final selection round.

“TRIDENT would have established the existence of a subsurface ocean – the first step in the study of the oceanic world”.

“TRIDENT would have had a near-infrared spectrometer that would allow us to map the distribution of ices (N2, CH4, CO, CO2 and H2O) across the surface of Triton for the first time (Voyager didn’t have a near-infrared spectrometer, so everything, what we know about composition is what we can see from Earth).”

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