Triton, Not Pluto or Eris, Is The Kuiper Belt’s Largest World
“The result, today, is that the largest and most massive body ever to form in the Kuiper belt — 20% larger than Pluto; 29% more massive than Eris — is now Neptune’s largest moon: Triton. Today, Triton makes up 99.5% of the mass orbiting Neptune, an enormous departure from all the other giant planet systems we know of. The only explanation for its properties, especially its bizarre and unique orbit, is that Triton is a captured Kuiper belt object.
We often talk about icy moons with subsurface oceans as candidate worlds for life. We imagine large, distant, icy bodies as planets or dwarf planets in their own right. Triton was born not as a moon of Neptune, but as the largest and most massive Kuiper belt object to survive. You don’t cease to exist when you move locations, and neither did Triton. It’s the original king of the Kuiper belt, and its true origin story is a cosmic mystery that deserves to be solved.”
In October of 1846, just months after Neptune was discovered, a large moon was discovered around it: Triton. Today, Triton is a supremely unusual moon for a number of reasons, but the largest is that it rotates in the wrong direction. While Neptune orbits the Sun counterclockwise and spins counterclockwise on its tilted axis, Triton orbits in the opposite direction. The only way this could have happened is if it were a captured object. And that’s exactly what it looks like: a captured object from the Kuiper belt!
We know what it’s like and where it came from; the biggest mystery, now, is reconstructing how it came to be there. Come get the story on the true king of the Kuiper belt: Triton!
Eight Other Worlds In Our Solar System Might Have Life Beyond Earth
“5.) Venus. Venus is hell, literally. At a constant surface temperature of some 900 degrees Fahrenheit, no human-made lander has ever survived more than a couple of hours while touched down on our nearest neighboring planet. But the reason Venus is so hot is because of it’s thick, carbon-dioxide rich atmosphere laden with heat-trapping clouds of sulphuric acid. This renders the surface of Venus thoroughly inhospitable, but the surface isn’t the only place to look for life. In fact, speculation is rampant that perhaps something interesting is happening some 60 miles up! Above the cloud-tops of Venus, the environment is surprisingly Earth-like: similar temperatures, pressures, and less corrosive material. It’s conceivable that with its own unique chemical history, that environment is filled with carbon-based airborne life, something that a mission to Venus’ upper atmosphere could easily sniff out.”
The Earth, to the best of our knowledge, is the only inhabited world we have. The ingredients for life may be everywhere, from asteroids to nebulae to exoplanets and more, but so far, only Earth is confirmed to have life. While Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars at the right distance for liquid water on their surface might seem like the best place to look for life, we don’t necessarily need to go that far. Right here in our own cosmic backyard, our own solar system boasts eight potential candidates for worlds with life on them today. Some of them are planets, like Mars and Venus; others are moons, like Europa and Titan; even asteroids like Ceres or Kuiper belt objects like Pluto get in on the action. The life that might be present might not look like most of life on Earth, but unless we look at the likely locations of biological activity in situ, we simply won’t know for certain.
Come find out all eight possible locations, and see if you can come up with a better possibility than any of these!