The best ever global color map of Neptune’s big moon Triton, using images taken by a NASA spacecraft 25 years ago has been created by a scientist.
On Aug.25, 1989 Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston produced the map after restoring photos snapped by the Voyager 2 probe during its flyby of Neptune and Triton. A minute-long movie of Voyager 2s historic Triton encounter – the first and only time a spacecraft has ever visited the Neptune system has been turned by the new map.
A resolution of 1970 feet (600 meters) per pixel of the new map may help bring enigmatic Triton back into the spotlight.
“In the intervening quarter century and its many discoveries, I think we have tended to forget how strange and exotic Triton really is!” Schenk wrote in a blog post on Thursday (Aug. 21).
“Its effective surface age may be a little as 10 million years (old), clearly implying that active geology is going on today,” he added. “The cantaloupe terrain, which I interpreted back in 1993 as due to crustal overturn (diapirism), hasn’t been seen anywhere else. The volcanic region, with its smooth plains and volcanic pits large and small, is the size of Texas. And the southern terrains still defy interpretation.”
The map using green, blue and orange filters was produced by chenk. NASA officials says that the Triton shows roughly as human eyes would sees though colors have been enhanced to accentuate contrast.
25 years to the day after Voyager 2’s encounter, NASA’s New Horizons probe is scheduled to cross the orbit of Neptune on Monday Aug.25 in an interesting twist. On July 14, 2015 New Horizons will be streaking toward a flyby of Pluto that should return the first good looks at the distant dwarf planet and its moons.