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Physical state of volatiles on the surface of Triton

Lunine, Jonathan I. and Stevenson, David J. (1985) Physical state of volatiles on the surface of Triton. Nature, 317 (6034). pp. 238-240. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/317238a0.

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The most recent analyses of infrared spectrophotometric studies of Neptune's satellite Triton concluded that both condensed methane and nitrogen are present. It was also concluded that the most likely surface configuration is a liquid nitrogen (N_2) 'ocean' with dry areas of solid methane (CH_4), and perhaps some exposed fine-grained water frost (H_2O). However, this model runs into some difficulties, especially when requirements of phase equilibrium between the solid and liquid components are imposed. Because an understanding of the distribution and state of volatiles is crucial in interpreting secular changes in Triton's appearance due to seasonal effects, and in planning observing strategies for the Voyager–Neptune/Triton encounter, we assess here several possible configurations for these volatiles on Triton. We conclude that the simplest volatile configuration which best satisfies the constraints with the least number of ad hoc assumptions is N_2 and CH_4 both in solid forms, perhaps partly as a microscopic mixture, but more probably as a disequilibrium assemblage, non-uniformly distributed. Thermodynamic equilibrium is then limited by seasonal transport and the finite diffusion time of CH_4 in crystalline N_2. Although a nitrogen ocean cannot be excluded, it requires very restrictive assumptions.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Lunine, Jonathan I.0000-0003-2279-4131
Stevenson, David J.0000-0001-9432-7159
Additional Information:© 1985 Nature Publishing Group. Received 26 March; accepted 8 July 1985. This work was supported by NASA grants NAGW-185 and NAGW-450 and NSF grant AST-8206173. Contribution no. 4236 from the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology.
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Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences4236
Issue or Number:6034
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140311-114610217
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Official Citation:Physical state of volatiles on the surface of Triton 238-240 Jonathan I. Lunine & David J. Stevenson doi:10.1038/317238a0
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:44248
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:11 Mar 2014 21:41
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 16:49

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