Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Friday, March 19, 1999 Published at 14:16 GMT


Sci/Tech

Mysterious moon's methane sea

Does an ocean lie beneath this ice crust?

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Seen in close-up only once, Neptune's mysterious moon Triton is one of the Solar System's strangest bodies.

Images were sent back to Earth for a few hours during the Voyager spacecraft's brief encounter with the Neptune system in 1989.

Triton is a frozen world, with unexplained features on its surface and strange "ice geysers."

It may also have an ocean just beneath the ice - an ocean made of liquid methane or ammonia. It would be like nothing ever found before.

A new analysis of the old Voyager data has just been completed.

Resurfacing

The findings from the study were revealed at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference being held in Houston, Texas, this week.

The research shows that Triton's surface may be about half a billion years old - and possibly even younger than that. This suggests that resurfacing is actively taking place.

Scientists believe liquid is coming from below and freezing on the surface of Triton, obliterating all but the youngest craters.

For years, researchers have speculated about a subsurface ocean on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. There might also be such an ocean on another Jovian satellite, Gannymede.

The hope is that such oceans could contain water that would sustain some sort of extreme lifeform.

But if the scientists are right and Triton has an ocean of ammonia or liquid methane, such life would be rather unlikely.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Sci/Tech Contents


Relevant Stories

19 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
Best ever view of Ganymede

22 Oct 98 | Sci/Tech
More evidence for oceans on Europa

16 Jul 98 | Sci/Tech
Lost ocean of Jupiter moon

07 Apr 98 | Sci/Tech
Has Titan got answers to life in space ?





Internet Links


Triton fact sheet


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer