Victor Petrescu

Victor Petrescu

School: “Ion Heliade Radulescu” Gymnasium School

City: Bucharest

Topic: Triton


"I consider that it is absolutely necessary and I wish that researchers further study Triton, the largest of Neptune's 13 moons, especially on its other side, because the organic chemistry of its atmosphere (nitrogen and methane) can be similar to that of the primitive atmosphere of Earth, before the existence of life. We can believe that there are elements that lead to a possible existence of life on Triton.

Artist's rendering of Voyager 2 and Triton
This moon of Neptune is the only big moon in the solar system that revolves around its planet in a direction opposite to the rotation of the planet, which suggests that it was once an independent object that Neptune captured.

Triton was discovered in 1846 by W. Lassell, but it was first studied closely in 1989 when Voyager 2 revealed fascinating details about it. It has a diameter of 1680 miles (2700 km), the surface is quite cracked, with smooth volcanic plains, mounds and round pits made of frozen lava. Triton also consists of a frozen nitrogen crust situated over an ice-cold mantle, which covers a rock and metal core.

This moon has a thin atmosphere, mainly composed of nitrogen and methane. This atmosphere comes most likely from Triton's volcanic activity. Its volcanoes are active, with geysers erupting a mixture of liquid nitrogen, methane and dust, which instantly freezes and then drops back to the surface.

Triton was found to be the coldest known planetary body in the solar system (surface temperatures are - 235 degrees Celsius).

The presence of nitrogen and methane in its atmosphere can be a good thing.

Anaerobic organisms are known to exist. For example, methanogenic bacteria (Methanabacterium sp.), that produce methane gas or methane bacteria (Methanomonas) and oxidize methane to carbon dioxide with energy releases.

Also, nitrogen is essential for life, being a basic component of proteins and it has been proven that nitrogen fixing bacteria exist.

On the other hand, there are organisms that can survive in extreme conditions, which means we should not be scared of the very low temperatures of Triton.

Bacteria has been discovered which live more than dozens of kilometers below the ice in Antarctica or even in the Mariana Trench.

Additionally, there are bacteria that develop inside rocks, using only organic molecules extracted from the stones as food.

Besides, cryovolcanoes could contribute to different chemical reactions or they could even bring any form of underground life, if any, to the surface, where scientists and their instruments have a better chance of detecting them.

We need to be aware of the fact that life could exist elsewhere, not just on Earth."

Solar System News