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Subsurface energy storage and transport for solar-powered geysers on TritonThe location of active geyser-like eruptions and related features close to the current subsolar latitude on Triton suggests a solar energy source for these phenomena. Solid-state greenhouse calculations have shown that sunlight can generate substantially elevated subsurface temperatures. A variety of models for the storage of solar energy in a subgreenhouse layer and for the supply of gas and energy to a geyser are examined. 'Leaky greenhouse' models with only vertical gas transport are inconsistent with the observed upper limit on geyser radius of about 1.5 km. However, lateral transport of energy by gas flow in a porous N2 layer with a block size on the order of a meter can supply the required amount of gas to a source region about 1 km in radius. The decline of gas output to steady state may occur over a period comparable with the inferred active geyser lifetime of 5 earth years. The required subsurface permeability may be maintained by thermal fracturing of the residual N2 polar cap. A lower limit on geyser source radius of about 50 to 100 m predicted by a theory of negatively buoyant jets is not readily attained.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Kirk, Randolph L.
(Geological Survey Flagstaff, AZ, United States)
Soderblom, Laurence A.
(USGS Flagstaff, AZ, United States)
Brown, Robert H.
(JPL Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 14, 2013
Publication Date
October 19, 1990
Publication Information
Publication: Science
Volume: 250
ISSN: 0036-8075
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Exploration
Accession Number
Distribution Limits

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