The phase composition of Triton's polar caps

N. S. Duxbury, R. H. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Triton's polar caps are modeled as permanent nitrogen deposits hundreds of meters thick. Complex temperature variations on Triton's surface induce reversible transitions between the cubic and hexagonal phases of solid nitrogen, often with two coexisting propagating transition fronts. Subsurface temperature distributions are calculated using a two-dimensional thermal model with phase changes. The phase changes fracture the upper nitrogen layer, increasing its reflectivity and thus offering an explanation for the surprisingly high southern polar cap albedo (approximately 0.8) seen during the Voyager 2 flyby. The model has other implications for the phase transition phenomena on Triton, such as a plausible mechanism for the origin of geyser-like plume vent areas and a mechanism of energy transport toward them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)748-751
Number of pages4
Issue number5122
StatePublished - Aug 6 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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