This natural color image of the limb of Triton was taken early in the morning of Aug. 25 1989, when the Voyager 2 spacecraft was at a distance of about 210,000 kilometers (128,000 miles) from the icy satellite. The largest surface features visible area about 3 miles across. The picture is a composite of images taken through the violet, green and clear filters. The image shows a geologic boundary between a rough, pitted surface to the right and a smoother surface to the left. The change between surface types is gradual. The image also shows a color boundary between pinkish material in the upper part of the image and whiter material in the lower part. The geologic and color boundaries are not the same. That implies that whatever supplies the color is avery thin coating over a different underlying material in which the geologic boundary occurs. The colored coating may be a seasonal frost composed of compounds volatile enough to be sublimated at the very low temperatures (40 °K to 50 °K, or -387.4 °F to -369.4 °F) prevailing near Triton's surface. Possible compositions of the frost layer include methane (which turns red when irradiated), carbon monoxide or nitrogen. The color in this image is somewhat exaggerated: Triton is primarily a white object with a pinkish cast in some areas. The Voyager Mission is conducted by JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications.
Published: August 20, 1999