2019-20 Venezuela winners, Triton, 9-12 grade

Year: 2019-20

Carlota Suárez Rochard, Clarisa Suarez, Kimberly Rodriguez, Roberto Fernandez, Laura Rincon, Adriana Sanchez, Alejandra Sanchez, Eliab Parra

Schools: U.E.P. Colegio Altamira, Colegio Rosmini, Colegio Fatima, Colegio Pilar, and Liceo Los Robles

City: Maracaibo

Topic: Triton

"In this essay, we will expose the reasons why we believe Triton could hold life and should be studied by a spacecraft due to its special characteristics.

Artist's view of Voyager 2 at Triton

First of all, Triton has geological features that makes it capable of holding life: an atmosphere of methane and nitrogen, with the possibility of having methanogen forms of life; Tritons atmosphere could be deeply studied with an Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph; its surface is made principally of frozen Nitrogen and water, but since it is geologically active, water from the surface could have melted and formed an interior ocean capable of holding different aquatic forms of life based maybe on ammonia. Also, it has a magnetic field that protects Triton from the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, this could be studied with a magnetometer.

In our astronomy classes we made a home build magnetometer and watched the behaviour of Earths magnetic field. Triton has a slightly pink surface, which is believed to be caused by the presence of hydrocarbons (organic compounds formed by carbon and hydrogen atoms) that could sustain life; these compounds could be analyzed with a Cosmic Dust Analyzer.

On the other hand, Triton is the only large moon in the solar systems that has a retrograde orbit, this is extremely unusual and definitely worth studying why it rotates like that and why it is the only one(?).

In conclusion, Triton’s atmosphere, surface composition, geological activity, magnetic field, pink surface and rare rotations makes it a particular and distinguishable objective of study which definitely would expand our knowledge, not only about its properties and composition, but also about the possibility of holding life, whether it’s similar to the life as we know it or not."

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