Sara John-Chuan

Year: 2019-20

Sara John-Chuan

School: Crosby Heights Public School

Teacher: Tansuree Das

City: Richmond Hill, Ontario

Topic: Triton

"The cantaloupe-like surface with geysers all over. One of the coldest places in the solar system. Triton is a whole world brimming with opportunities waiting to happen. This unique moon can teach scientists various ways in which planets or moons form. Out of the three moons in the far reaches of the solar system: Uranus’ Miranda, Neptune’s Triton; and Pluto’s Charon, Triton stands out. The evident choice is Triton, with the key features it already possesses: its past as a dwarf planet; the cantaloupe-like terrain thought to be a result of tidal heating; and its state as geologically active.
According to many studies by major space companies like NASA, Triton was once a dwarf planet. The moon is predicted to have been part of a binary system; where two planets revolve around each other. Triton was pulled out of its system by Neptune and brought into orbit, which imbalanced all of Neptune's moons’ gravitational orbits and forced them to either crash into Neptune or fly out of orbit. As a result, Triton has a retrograde orbit; an orbit that spins the opposite way of Neptune, which is unique to Triton in the solar system. This distinct past could help researchers discover more about how moons and gravity work and are formed.

Artist's view of Voyager 2 at Triton
A quality example of tidal heating is Triton, due to its cantaloupe-like surface and lack of craters. The unnatural orbit over time led to the water ice underneath Triton’s face to unfreeze and refreeze slowly, pushing up on the crust and forming the cantaloupe-like ridges that were observed when Triton was passed by Voyager 2 in 1989. No craters are apparent on Triton, as when it was hit by asteroids, the moon was mostly water. Due to this, the impact did not physically damage the moon. Triton’s surface contains years of change and information that can be used to further comprehend space and moons.

Triton is currently geologically active, with geysers still erupting on its surface. These geysers are supplied by nitrogen instead of water and release dark plumes into Triton’s atmosphere. There are many similarities between these geysers and geysers present on Mars. If both Triton and Mars are explored and examined, scientists will be able to learn about geysers in space, including those on Io and Enceladus, which would benefit space exploration. The geysers on Triton would be a compelling event to explore, with many benefits.

Neptune’s biggest moon has features that prove it to have the most potential out of the three moons. It can help explain more about how different moons are formed with its past as a dwarf planet. The tidal heating present on Triton over many years can teach about the gradual changes in space over several centuries. Cryogenic geysers on the moon make it both geologically active and uncommon. Scientists can unearth a lot from this moon about space."

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