The Effect of Surface Roughness on Triton's Volatile Distribution

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Science  20 Mar 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5051, pp. 1553-1555
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5051.1553


Calculations of radiative equilibrium temperatures on Triton's rough surface suggest that significant condensation of N2 may be occurring in the northern equatorial regions, despite their relatively dark appearance. The bright frost is not apparent in the Voyager images because it tends to be concentrated in relatively unilluminated facets of the surface. This patchwork of bright frost-covered regions and darker bare ground may be distributed on scales smaller than that of the Voyager resolution; as a result the northern equatorial regions may appear relatively dark. This hypothesis also accounts for the observed wind direction in the southern hemisphere because it implies that the equatorial regions are warmer than the south polar regions.

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