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More from NASA

Occultations are Eclipse-Like Events An occultation occurs when an object, like a planet or a moon, passes in front of a star and completely blocks the light from that star. As the object blocks the star’s light, it casts a faint shadow on Earth’s surface. But unlike an eclipse, these shadows are not usually visible to the naked eye because the star and object are much smaller and not nearly as bright as our sun. Telescopes with special instruments can actually see these shadows and study the star’s light as it passes near and around the object – if they can be in the right place on Earth to catch the shadow.

Triton At 1,680 miles (2,700 km) across, Triton is the largest of the 13 moons orbiting Neptune. Unlike most large moons in our solar system, Triton orbits in the opposite direction of Neptune, called a retrograde orbit. This backward orbit leads scientists to believe that Triton formed in an area past Neptune, called the Kuiper Belt, and was pulled into its orbit around Neptune by gravity. The Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past Neptune and Triton in 1989 and found that Triton’s atmosphere is made up of mostly nitrogen…but it has not been studied in nearly 16 years!

Discovery with bay doors open for satellite deployment

More from NASA

Occultations are Eclipse-Like Events An occultation occurs when an object, like a planet or a moon, passes in front of a star and completely blocks the light from that star. As the object blocks the star’s light, it casts a faint shadow on Earth’s surface. But unlike an eclipse, these shadows are not usually visible to the naked eye because the star and object are much smaller and not nearly as bright as our sun. Telescopes with special instruments can actually see these shadows and study the star’s light as it passes near and around the object – if they can be in the right place on Earth to catch the shadow.

Triton At 1,680 miles (2,700 km) across, Triton is the largest of the 13 moons orbiting Neptune. Unlike most large moons in our solar system, Triton orbits in the opposite direction of Neptune, called a retrograde orbit. This backward orbit leads scientists to believe that Triton formed in an area past Neptune, called the Kuiper Belt, and was pulled into its orbit around Neptune by gravity. The Voyager 2 spacecraft flew past Neptune and Triton in 1989 and found that Triton’s atmosphere is made up of mostly nitrogen…but it has not been studied in nearly 16 years!

Discovery with bay doors open for satellite deployment