As we warm up on our way to summer, I think about Pluto and NASA’s New Horizons mission, which got us there in 2015 after a nine-year flight, and how exciting it was to see first pictures from the craft, with many more to come.
But now I am thinking of another exciting cool destination — Neptune’s large moon Triton, a “moon of mystery.” Like Pluto, Triton is way out there, almost three billion miles from Earth. One might think it is just a solid block of ice, at 388 degrees below zero.
But no, Voyager’s cameras and instruments discovered geyser-like volcanic vents that shoot nitrogen gas and dark particles to heights of five miles. It also has a unique “cantaloupe terrain,” the oldest part of the surface. Can you imagine being on the surface in your toasty warm ship and settling in for a nice nap?
After living in Barrow, Alaska for more than 20 years, I have a bit of experience of being in such a cold place like Triton. I’m even working on a short story about such an event.
Others have had such dreams, ideas, etc. Somewhere I read about Triton serving as a last stop for fuel and supplies for subsequent expeditions heading out of the solar system. Can you mention signs out there with the current price of rocket fuel?
We have now sent probes out as far as Pluto, and the New Horizons is heading out to take a look at other bodies and sending back information on such extreme places.
Oh, one more thing to help warm up the neighborhood for Neptune, Triton and Pluto. An astronomer at Lowell Observatory in Arizona said that Triton has been warming up since the Voyager flew by in 1989. Yes, a period of “global warming.”
Scientists are trying to find out what is causing such warming. They say it might be a slight shift that allows more direct sunlight on the southern pole.
Stay tuned and watch for new developments way out in our solar system.