Astronomy Picture of the Day
September 19, 2012

A thin Clouds' Layer on Triton
A thin Clouds' Layer on Triton

Credits: NASA - Voyager 2 Project; Credits fo the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/LXTT/IPF

In today's APOD, a beautiful view of Triton, the largest moon of the Gas-Giant Planet, Neptune.

Triton was discovered on October 10, of the AD 1846, by the English Astronomer William Lassell, and it is the only large moon in the Solar System with a Retrograde Orbit (such as an orbit that goes to the opposite direction as to the Body's rotation). With a diameter of approx. 2700 km, Triton it is the 7th (seventh) largest moon in the Solar System. However, both because of its Retrograde Orbit and Composition (similar to the one of the Dwarf Planet Pluto), Triton is thought to be a Celestial Body that moved (for unknown reasons, but probably a massive Impact Event) from the Kuiper's Belt, towards the Inner Regions of the Solar System and, supposing that it possessed a very modest Momentum, once it passed by Neptune, it got gravitationally captured.

As far as we know for now, Triton has a Surface that should be mostly composed by frozen Nitrogen and Water Ice; an icy Mantle and a substantial Core of Rock and Metal, which makes up - approximately - two-thirds of its Total Mass. Triton also possesses a Mean Density of 2,061 grams per cubic cm (such as 0,0745 lb per cubic inch) and is one of the few moons in the Solar System known to still be Geologically Active (like, for instance, the Saturnian moons Enceladus and Titan, the Jovian moon Io and the Uranian moon Ariel). As a consequence of this fact, the Surface of Triton appears to be relatively young, with a complex Gological Hstory behind it, that is partially revealed by the presence of intricate Channels (some visible here, in the lower portion of the frame), Cryo-Volcanoes and Tectonic Terrains. Furthermore, part of the Tritonian Crust is also dotted with Geysers which may erupt Water Ice, Mud and, very likely, frozen Ammonia and Nitrogen.

This image of Triton shows a thin Clouds' Layer along the Limb of the moon and it was obtained by the NASA - Voyager 2 Space Probe when it flew-by Triton at a speed of about 27 Km per second and from a distance of approx. 39.800. The NASA - Voyager 2 Space Probe discovered, among other things, that Triton possesses a thin Nitrogen-based Atmosphere of about 15 microbars, such as something like 0,000015 times the Surface Pressure on Earth, at Sea Level (---> at the Datum, or Zero Altitude, for Triton). The Limb of Triton also shows a thin Haze that lies about 13 Km above its Surface, and thin patches of Clouds, like the one as shown here.

This frame has been additionally processed and then re-colorized, according to an informed speculation carried out by Dr Paolo C. Fienga (LXTT-IPF), in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Voyager 2 Space Probe and then looked outside, towards the Neptunian moon Triton), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team. Different colors, as well as different shades of the same color, mean, among others, the existence of different Elements present on the Surface of Titon, each having a different Albedo (---> Reflectivity) and Chemical Composition.

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