Triton's Global Heat Budget

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Science  22 Mar 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 5000, pp. 1465-1467
DOI: 10.1126/science.251.5000.1465


Internal heat flow from radioactive decay in Triton's interior along with absorbed thermal energy from Neptune total 5 to 20 percent of the insolation absorbed by Triton, thus comprising a significant fraction of Triton's surface energy balance. These additional energy inputs can raise Triton's surface temperature between ∼0.5 and 1.5 K above that possible with absorbed sunlight alone, resulting in an increase of about a factor of ∼1.5 to 2.5 in Triton's basal atmospheric pressure. If Triton's internal heat flow is concentrated in some areas, as is likely, local effects such as enhanced sublimation with subsequent modification of albedo could be quite large. Furthermore, indications of recent global albedo change on Triton suggest that Triton's surface temperature and pressure may not now be in steady state, further suggesting that atmospheric pressure on Triton was as much as ten times higher in the recent past.

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