This week marks rather a special one for Neptune, the planetary system has recently celebrated its first birthday since its discovery and shares another anniversary, one since the first close up pictures detailing this world were received. If this was not enough, the planet is in one of the best positions in the night sky in which to view her bewitching phosphorescence.
July 12th of this year marked Neptune’s first birthday since its discovery in September 1846 by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle, this date was exactly 164.79 years, which is one full Neptunian year. Obviously the planet has made many more rotations while in existence but since its official naming and plotting the planet remains a young one in our eyes.
Monday 22nd August, this week, also marks the opportune time in which to gaze upon Neptune as the planet is in what is known as its opposition period, meaning it is exactly in the opposite position to that of the sun. Making the planet both at its closets point at its most bright.
However this only improves the chances of catching a glimpse of the system ever so slightly. Neptune’s distance is so great that its magnitude of 7.8, which is high on the scale of planetary brightness, means it cannot be viewed without aid of binoculars or a telescope.
To those desperate of a glimpse, Neptune can be spotted above the star Iota Aquarii, which is in the Aquarius constellation.
The planets massive orbital route is down to its distance from our sun, the distance of 2.8 billion miles, the amount of space in between causes the planet to drop to temperatures of -220 degrees Celsius.
Just like the other gas giants of our Solar System, Neptune is plagued with storms and electrical surges. Winds on the planet can reach speeds of 1,340 Mph tearing through the rich gas atmosphere. Gases such as hydrogen, helium and predominantly methane control the atmosphere and ultimately give the world its blue, green tinge. The bewitching colour is due to the fact that these gases absorb the red light emitted from the sun then reflects back less fluorescence in the form of blue light.
Neptune, named after the roman god of water and the sea, is the eighth and final planet in our Solar System. At over 30,760 miles wide it is not the biggest but still 17 times the size of Earth.
Much of this information has been collected over the last two decades merited to the NASA led Voyager 2 Space Craft, launched from Florida in the late 1970’s.
On Thursday 25th August, this week, Voyager will celebrate 22 years since sending back its first images of Neptune, enabling scientists to understand its atmosphere, weather patterns and orbital movements.
According to NASA’s scientists they state that the craft could carry on communicating, quietly, until 2025, thats 48 years after its launch.
Without the first observations and innovations of science, Neptune would still be the blurry, blue marble at the foot of the Solar System.
- Extra Giant Planet May Have Dwelled in Our Solar System (scientificamerican.com)