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NASA's Voyager Displays Best View of Neptune's Triton [VIDEO]

Aug 25, 2014 04:41 PM EDT
Neptune's Triton
The best color map of the big moon was created from images that were taken 25 years ago by NASA's spacecraft.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft has taken unprecedented views of Neptune's moon Triton, describes a new study.

The best color map of the big moon was created from images that were taken 25 years ago by NASA's spacecraft.

Paul Schenk, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, restored and pieced together photos taken by Voyager 2 when it went past Neptune and Triton on August 25, 1989. The map was also turned into a minute-long movie detailing Voyager 2's Triton encounter.

The new Triton map has a resolution of 1,970 feet (600 meters) per pixel. Orange, green and blue filters were used to produce the map and the colors have been enhanced to accentuate contrast, but still show Triton roughly as human eyes would see it, NASA officials said.

"In the intervening quarter century and its many discoveries, I think we have tended to forget how strange and exotic Triton really is!" Schenk wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

Triton has an exclusive terrain that has never been found anywhere in our solar system, possibly because of its frozen atmosphere that is warmed by Neptune.

(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lunar & Planetary Institute)

"The cantaloupe terrain, which I interpreted back in 1993 as due to crustal overturn (diapirism), hasn't been seen anywhere else. The volcanic region, with its smooth plains and volcanic pits large and small, is the size of Texas. And the southern terrains still defy interpretation," Schenk wrote.

Although Triton is a moon of a planet and Pluto is a dwarf planet, Triton serves as a preview of sorts for the upcoming Pluto encounter. Pluto is unlikely to be a copy of Triton, but some of the same types of features may be present.

"Triton is of importance as it offers clues to what geologic features might look like on Pluto, given that the icy crusts of both bodies are probably rather similar and would presumably react in similar ways under internal stress and heat," Schenk added. "So if there were or are volcanoes on Pluto, they could look similar to those we see on Triton."

Jet Propulsion Laboratory released the following video showing the approach of Voyager 2, its encounter and its departure.

[Credit: USRA Houston]

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