Before we developed an interest in astronomy, all that mattered to us in outer space were the nine planets we had learned at our fingertips. However, as the world got advancements, the astronomers could discover a lot of other celestial things. The best practice after you get a telescope is to observe all the planets. Many people do so, and the one planet that often gives us a tough time is Neptune – as it is not very easy to locate. Let’s see why is it so?
Galileo Galilei first discovered Neptune in 1613, which he considered a star, but later research proved that it is a planet. The biggest reason for the discovery of this planet is Uranus. Neptune has the honor of being regarded as the first planet based on mathematical calculations and predictions. As the planet is water-like in color, it is called the Roman god of the sea.
Formation of Planet Neptune
According to the research, Neptune and Uranus were closer to the sun, but they drove away from it later on. According to the estimates, the planet’s creation was about 4.5 billion years ago and moved towards the outer solar system about 4 billion years ago.
Distance from the Sun
Before the discovery of Pluto, research showed that Neptune was the farthest planet in the solar system. After discovering Pluto in 1930, Neptune got the title of being the second most distant planet of the solar system. When Pluto’s eccentric orbit was acknowledged and named as the dwarf planet instead of the planet in 2006, Neptune again got recognized as the farthest planet in the solar system.
The average distance between the planet and Sun is 4.5 billion kilometers or 2.8 billion miles or 30.1 AU. Its distance from Earth is about 29.4 AU, which takes about 4 hours for its light to reach us.
Structure of the Planet
The structure of the planet is quite similar to Uranus with regard to the internal structure. The atmosphere forms about 5% to 10% of the mass of Neptune and the lower regions of the atmosphere contain significant concentrations of methane, ammonia, and water.
Moreover, this mixture is considered as “icy,” no matter how hot it is. The diamond crystals, which formed as a result of the decomposition of methane, rain downwards in the form of hailstones. In Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, it is thought that a similar diamond rain occurs.
Atmosphere of Neptune
Hydrogen, methane, and helium make up the atmosphere. Neptune’s vivid blue color is not only influenced by the presence of methane but also some unknown factor that makes the color more intense. Despite being farthest from the sun ad getting the lowest energy input, the research shows that it has the most powerful winds out of all planets in the solar system.
Climate of the Planet
Neptune is not as cold as Uranus. Its weather is, undoubtedly, the wildest and strange in the solar system as a whole. However, it is still unclear how it gets this much energy for such disastrous weather.
Neptune has an average temperature of about 214-degree Celsius; 353 degrees. The winds are five times stronger than the winds on Earth. In 1989 a voyager observed Neptune’s storm about the size of the Earth passing through Neptune’s atmosphere and marked a great dark spot.
Astronomers wanted to see if the spots were permanent like the red spot on Jupiter, but the storms were no longer there. Later on, observations showed many other storms appearing and disappearing.
The magnetic field of Neptune is 47 degrees relative to its rotational axis. There is no planet with a perfectly aligned magnetic field, not even the Earth, which has different types of magnetic fields. The slanted magnetic field is only significant in Neptune and Uranus.
Observations showed auroras on Neptune. But they are faint because the particles do not get charge so much by the sun. The direction of the magnetosphere is also one of the reasons for aurora being faint on it. This leads to the discovery of aurora type B on Neptune.
Planetary Rings Around Neptune
Neptune also possesses the ring system, which is a little faint, dark reddish in color, and is named after the people involved in Neptune’s research and discovery.
The innermost ring, which is faint and wide about 1.242 miles or 2.000 km, is named after the Galle ring.
The second ring, or the first bright ring, wide about 113 km or 70.3 miles, is named Le Verrier.
The third, named Lassell Ring, is wide about 4.000 km or 2.485 miles wide. Argo ring, which is present on the edge of the third ring, is a bit brighter and is wide, about 100 km or 62 miles. The outermost ring, named Adam rings, is about 35km or 21.7 miles wide.
Moons of Neptune
There are 14 moons discovered on planet Neptune; the first and largest, was found 17 days after the discovery of Neptune itself.
The moons of Neptune consist of regular, irregular, and unusual irregular moons.
The seven inner moons out of 14 moons of Neptune are regular. As per their distance from Neptune’s surface, the arrangement is Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Larissa, Hippocamp, and Proteus.
The rest of the 14 moons of Neptune are the irregular moons. According to their distance from Neptune, the sequence is as follows: Triton, Nereid, Halimede, Sao, Laomedeia, Psamanthe, and Neso.
Unusual Irregular Moons
Nereid and Triton, the largest moon in the solar system, are the unusual irregular moons of Neptune.
Neptune doesn’t have an actual surface. Hence we cannot consider it to be habitable for humanity. However, Neptune’s moon Triton can develop life.
The Verdict: How Neptune Appears in a Telescope?
Neptune is the only planet in our solar system that is not visible with a naked eye – not even as a star of bright light. Even with a reflective telescope of significant magnification and a good-sized scope, all you will see is a disc with a bluish hue. It would appear just as a prick of like. The main reason for this is the fact that atmospheric gases surround it.