Sciency Words: Cantaloupe Terrain

Sciency Words PHYS copy

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Each week, we take a closer look at an interesting science or science-related term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:


This is a cantaloupe.

Nv05 Not Actually a Cantaloupe

And this is Triton, Neptune’s largest moon.

Nv05 Not Actually Triton

Wait, I think I got those mixed up…

In 1989, Voyager 2 became the first (and so far the only) spacecraft to visit Triton, and it sent back some weird pictures of Triton’s surface. Pictures like this one:

Nv05 Cantaloupe Terrain

This heavily dimpled surface topography, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the skin of a cantaloupe, is unique to Triton. It may have formed due to a geologic process called diapirism, whereby blobs of warm material (called diapirs) force their way upward through layers of solid rock.

We know this process occurs on Earth and possibly a few other places in the Solar System. However, diapirism does not generally produce a cantaloupe-like appearance. That only happens on Triton, and no one’s entirely sure why.

So research continues on what scientists have officially named “cantaloupe terrain.”

Nv05 Cantaloupe Terrain vs Chaos Terrain

Today’s post is part of Neptune month for the 2015 Mission to the Solar System. Click here to learn more about this series.

And click here to find out more about Europa’s chaos terrain.

One thought on “Sciency Words: Cantaloupe Terrain

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