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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Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.
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