Top 10 AMAZING Facts About NEPTUNE
From its 14 moons, to the history of naming this blue gas giant, in this installment, we're going visit the plant of Neptune, and learn 10 interesting facts about Neptune that you probably didn't know before.
It’s VERY cold and VERY hot.
Neptune’s atmosphere is colder than anything seen on our planet, with surface temperatures plummeting as low as minus 218 degrees Celsius or minus 353 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that into perspective, the coldest recorded temperature on Earth was just minus 89 degrees Celsius, or minus 127 degrees Fahrenheit in east Antarctica. With that said, Neptune has an extremely hot core that produces temperatures hotter than the surface of our sun–7,000 degrees Celsius, or 12,600 degrees in Fahrenheit. Neptune’s core is so hot that it generates most of the planet’s heat, as opposed to relying on the sun. So, Neptune is an icy planet filled with sun-scorching warmth? Our galaxy is a strange, strange place.
Yes, there are rings.
Scientists recently confirmed that Neptune, like Saturn and Uranus, has a total of six very faint rings. In fact, the existence of the rings were visually confirmed in 1989, though their existence was discovered in 1984. Neptune’s rings have only about a thousandth the total mass of Uranus’s, despite covering a space of 77,500 miles or 125,000 km. The rings are so faint that a passing astronaut would be unable to see them with the naked eye; instead, at most he would see a few bright arcs representing Neptune’s outer narrow ring. Don’t expect to see those rings for long, they’ve been steadily deteriorating with at least one expected to vanish by this time next century.
No Birthdays Here
Neptune’s day cycles are much shorter than Earth’s, totaling about 16 hours long. In fact, Neptune has the 3rd shortest day of any planet in our solar system, only getting beaten out by Jupiter and Saturn which both have around a 10-hour day. The days may be short, but the years are extremely long; it takes Neptune 165 Earth years to complete its orbit around the Sun. A Neptunian year is so long, in fact, that it was only in 2011 that the planet completed its first orbit since Johann Galle’s landmark observation.
The 14 moons of Neptune
Neptune has 14 official moons; Triton is the largest and best-known of the moons, discovered less than three weeks after Neptune was first spotted; it’s well-known for its cryovolcanic activity–meaning that, instead of erupting molten rock, Triton’s volcanoes erupt water and ammonia. In order of discovery, Neptune’s moons are: Triton (1846), Nereid (1949), Larissa (1981), Naiad (1989), Thalassa (1989), Despina (1989), Galatea (1989), Proteus (1989), Halimede (2002), Sao (2002), Laomedeia (2002), Neso (2002), Psamathe (2002) and S/2004 N 1 (2013). While 14 moons is a lot in Earth terms, it isn’t much when you compare it to some of our other worlds. Nearby Uranus, for example, has more than double that number, while Saturn takes the top spot with a whopping 63 moons. Show off.
Scientists calculate that Neptune is made up of 60 to 70% ice, with the remainder of the planet composed of rock, hydrogen, methane, and helium. So, with all that ice, it’s no wonder Neptune gets its icy blue hue, right? Not quite. The planet gets its distinct color from methane, which absorbs red light and acts as a reflector for blue wavelengths. The planet isn’t always all blue, however: it has experienced large dark spots, or storms, that have appeared and vanished from sight. The larger of them, the Great Dark Spot discovered by the Voyager 2 in 1989, could have house the entirety of Earth.
The Windy Planet
It’s hard enough for Earthlings to deal with 150 mile or 240 kilometer per-hour hurricane winds, but those don’t compare to the winds that Neptune routinely dishes out. Neptune’s winds are so fast that they frequently break the sound barrier, hitting speeds of up to 1,500 miles or 2,400 kilometers per hour. I bet it makes for some great kite flying weather, though.
The Equatorial Circumference of Neptune measures around 96,129 miles or 154,704 kilometers, making it a whopping four times that of Earth. A road trip across Neptune’s equator would, if done at a steady pace of 60mph or 96 kph, would take approximately 1,600 hours, or 67 days to cross… just in case you were considering hoofing it across Neptune that is. By comparison, Earth’s diameter stretches just 25,000 miles or 40,000 kilometers.
Three years short
Bouvard was a 19th-century French astronomer who, while observing irregularities in Uranus’s orbit, deduced that there was an as-yet-unseen world nearby. In 1846, three years after Bouvard’s death, Johann Galle of Germany became the first man to actually see the distant world. At the urging of Le Verrier and with some help from observatory student Heinrich d’Arrest, Galle was able to pinpoint the cause of Bouvard’s deviations in Uranus’ orbit. Even now, observatories see Neptune as little more than a tiny blue spec, a testament to just how far the solar system’s “other” blue planet really is.
Roman God of the Sea
Known to the Greeks as Poseidon, Neptune was brother of Jupiter, God of Thunder and uncle of Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom. He was both worshipped and feared by ancient sailors, who relied on Neptune’s goodwill to guide them safely on long and often dangerous voyages. Romans dedicated a July festival to the sea god, complete with games and sacrifices… which actually sounds less festive now that we think about it. After its discovery, French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier suggested the name Neptune, but it wasn’t until the approval of German astronomer, Friedrich Struve, that the name actually stuck.
The “new” farthest planet
Since Pluto’s demotion from a full planet to a dwarf one, Neptune is now classified as the most distant world in our solar system; and distant it is. Neptune’s orbit is around 2.8 billion miles, or 4.5 billion kilometers away from the Sun. To simplify this massive number, just imagine being 30 times farther away from the Sun as you are on earth. It’s no wonder that Voyager 2, the only spacecraft to observe Neptune up close, took 12 years to reach the icy planet, despite traveling at a speed of over 35,000 miles, or 56,000 kilometers, per hour.