Heat flow and depth to a possible internal ocean on Triton

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The Raz Fossae, a pair of ≈ 15-km wide trough en echelon interpreted as grabens, can be used to propose an estimation of the depth to the brittle–ductile transition on Triton. This estimation may in turn give an idea of the thermal state of Triton’s icy lithosphere when these features formed. Given the young age of its surface, the conclusions obtained could be roughly applicable to the present state of this satellite of Neptune. Considering water or ammonia dihydrate as possible components of the lithosphere and a feasible range of strain rates, it was estimated that surface heat flow is greater than that inferred from radiogenic heating, especially for a lithosphere dominated by water. Also, an internal ocean could lie at a depth of only ∼ 20 km beneath the surface. The presence over the surface of an insulating layer of ice of low thermal conductivity (e.g., nitrogen) or of regolith would only substantially alter these estimates if the effective surface temperature were considerably higher than the observed value of 38 K.
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