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Triton. Photo: NASA.

Is There Life on Triton?

Last week we examined the possibility of life on Neptune, and it didn’t look like a good candidate; despite having considerable amounts of frozen water under the surface (and the valuable biosignature methane), it’s still a frozen, ammonia-seeping gas giant on the far edge of the solar system. But what about its largest moon, Triton?

There are several factors that make Triton a better candidate for life than Neptune:

  • It’s a rocky moon, not a gas giant.
  • It’s geologically active, which means that it could contain a liquid underground ocean.
  • We already know that the surface of Triton is coated, in part, with frozen water.
  • We also know that the surface of Triton is partially coated in frozen methane, which can be evidence of life.
Triton, the seventh-largest moon in the solar system, is about twice the diameter of Pluto. Exploring it for subsurface water is a difficult task for many reasons—one of them being that we need to devise a way to look for life without potentially destroying it—but before we give up on the possibility of extraterrestrial life in our solar system, Triton belongs on the shortlist.

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