Solar System, technical/Neptune

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This picture from the Voyager 2 sequence shows two of the four cloud features which have been tracked by the Voyager cameras during the past two months. Credit: NASA.
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Neptune is a gaseous-object in orbit around the Sun.

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Notation: let the symbol Def. indicate that a definition is following.

Notation: let the symbols between [ and ] be replacement for that portion of a quoted text.


To help with definitions, their meanings and intents, there is the learning resource theory of definition.

Def. evidence that demonstrates that a concept is possible is called proof of concept.

The proof-of-concept structure consists of

  1. background,
  2. procedures,
  3. findings, and
  4. interpretation.[1]

The findings demonstrate a statistically systematic change from the status quo or the control group.


Neptune has an equatorial radius of 24,764 ± 15 km and a polar radius of 24,341 ± 30 km.[2]

Meteor astronomy[edit]

Combined colour and near-infrared image of Neptune, shows bands of methane in its atmosphere, and four of its moons, Proteus, Larissa, Galatea, and Despina. Credit: .
Bands of high-altitude clouds cast shadows on Neptune's lower cloud deck. Credit: .
The Great Dark Spot (top), Scooter (middle white cloud),[3] and the Small Dark Spot (bottom), with contrast exaggerated. Credit: .
The Great Dark Spot is imaged by Voyager 2. Credit: .

"[A]t the time of the 1989 Voyager 2 flyby, the planet's southern hemisphere possessed a Great Dark Spot ... In 1989, the Great Dark Spot, an anti-cyclonic storm system [spanned] 13000×6600 km,[4] was discovered by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft. ... Some five years later, on 2 November 1994, the Hubble Space Telescope did not see the Great Dark Spot on the planet. Instead, a new storm similar to the Great Dark Spot was found in the planet's northern hemisphere.[5]"[6]

"The Scooter is another storm, a white cloud group farther south than the Great Dark Spot. Its nickname is due to the fact that when first detected in the months before the 1989 Voyager 2 encounter it moved faster than the Great Dark Spot.[7] Subsequent images revealed even faster clouds."[6]

"The Small Dark Spot is a southern cyclonic storm, the second-most-intense storm observed during the 1989 encounter. It initially was completely dark, but as Voyager 2 approached the planet, a bright core developed and can be seen in most of the highest-resolution images.[8]"[6]

"The persistence of companion clouds shows that some former dark spots may continue to exist as cyclones even though they are no longer visible as a dark feature. Dark spots may dissipate when they migrate too close to the equator or possibly through some other unknown mechanism.[9]"[6]

"The upper-level clouds occur at pressures below one bar, where the temperature is suitable for methane to condense."[6]

"High-altitude clouds on Neptune have been observed casting shadows on the opaque cloud deck below. There are also high-altitude cloud bands that wrap around the planet at constant latitude. These circumferential bands have widths of 50–150 km and lie about 50–110 km above the cloud deck.[10]"[6]

"Because of seasonal changes, the cloud bands in the southern hemisphere of Neptune have been observed to increase in size and albedo. This trend was first seen in 1980 and is expected to last until about 2020. The long orbital period of Neptune results in seasons lasting forty years.[11]"[6]

Neptune has "the strongest sustained winds of any planet in the Solar System, with recorded wind speeds as high as 2,100 kilometres per hour (1,300 mph).[12]"[6]

On Neptune "winds [reach] speeds of almost 600 m/s—nearly attaining supersonic flow.[12] More typically, by tracking the motion of persistent clouds, wind speeds have been shown to vary from 20 m/s in the easterly direction to 325 m/s westward.[13] At the cloud tops, the prevailing winds range in speed from 400 m/s along the equator to 250 m/s at the poles.[14] Most of the winds on Neptune move in a direction opposite the planet's rotation.[7] The general pattern of winds showed prograde rotation at high latitudes vs. retrograde rotation at lower latitudes. The difference in flow direction is believed to be a "skin effect" and not due to any deeper atmospheric processes.[15] At 70° S latitude, a high-speed jet travels at a speed of 300 m/s.[15]"[6]

Optical astronomy[edit]

Observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveal an increase in Neptune's brightness in the southern hemisphere. Credit: NASA, L. Sromovsky, and P. Fry (University of Wisconsin-Madison).

At right is a set of images from different years for Neptune. These images "show that Neptune's brightness has increased significantly since 1996. The rise is due to an increase in the amount of clouds observed in the planet's southern hemisphere. These increases may be due to seasonal changes caused by a variation in solar heating. Because Neptune's rotation axis is inclined 29 degrees to its orbital plane, it is subject to seasonal solar heating during its 164.8-year orbit of the Sun. This seasonal variation is 900 times smaller than experienced by Earth because Neptune is much farther from the Sun. The rate of seasonal change also is much slower because Neptune takes 165 years to orbit the Sun. So, springtime in the southern hemisphere will last for several decades! Remarkably, this is evidence that Neptune is responding to the weak radiation from the Sun. These images were taken in visible and near-infrared light by Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2."[16]

Blue astronomy[edit]

Neptune's south pole is photographed by Voyager 2. Credit: NASA.

"A trace amount of methane is also present. Prominent absorption bands of methane occur at wavelengths above 600 nm, in the red and infrared portion of the spectrum. As with Uranus, this absorption of red light by the atmospheric methane is part of what gives Neptune its blue hue,[17] although Neptune's vivid azure differs from Uranus's milder cyan. Since Neptune's atmospheric methane content is similar to that of Uranus, some unknown atmospheric constituent is thought to contribute to Neptune's colour.[18]"[6]

Infrared astronomy[edit]

These are infrared images of Neptune. Credit: VLT/ESO/NASA/JPL/Paris Observatory.
This is an infrared image of Neptune using adaptive optics (AO). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell.

At right are three images of Neptune using infrared astronomy. "Thermal images of planet Neptune taken with VISIR on ESO's Very Large Telescope, obtained on 1 and 2 September 2006. These thermal images show a 'hot' south pole on Neptune. These warmer temperatures provide an avenue for methane to escape out of the deep atmosphere. Scientists say Neptune's south pole is 'hotter' than anywhere else on the planet by about 10°C. The average temperature on Neptune is about minus 200 degrees Celsius. The upper left image samples temperatures near the top of Neptune's troposphere (near 100 mbar pressure). The hottest temperatures are located at the lower part of the image at Neptune's south pole (see the graphic at the upper right). The lower two images, taken 6.3 hours apart, sample temperatures at higher altitudes in Neptune's stratosphere. They do show generally warmer temperatures near, but not at, the south pole. In addition they show a warm area which can be seen in the lower left image and rotated completely around the planet in the lower right image."[19]

Atmospheric astronomy[edit]

"Neptune's atmosphere ... is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, along with traces of hydrocarbons and possibly nitrogen, contains a higher proportion of "ices" such as water, ammonia, and methane. ... Traces of methane in the outermost regions in part account for the planet's blue appearance.[20]"[6]

"At high altitudes, Neptune's atmosphere is 80% hydrogen and 19% helium.[21] A trace amount of methane is also present. Prominent absorption bands of methane occur at wavelengths above 600 nm, in the red and infrared portion of the spectrum. As with Uranus, this absorption of red light by the atmospheric methane is part of what gives Neptune its blue hue,[17] although Neptune's vivid azure differs from Uranus's milder cyan. Since Neptune's atmospheric methane content is similar to that of Uranus, some unknown atmospheric constituent is thought to contribute to Neptune's colour.[20]"[6]

"Neptune's atmosphere is sub-divided into two main regions; the lower troposphere, where temperature decreases with altitude, and the stratosphere, where temperature increases with altitude. The boundary between the two, the tropopause, occurs at a pressure of 0.1 bars (10 kPa).[22] The stratosphere then gives way to the thermosphere at a pressure lower than 10−5 to 10−4 microbars (1 to 10 Pa).[22] The thermosphere gradually transitions to the exosphere."[6]

"[Neptune']s thermosphere is at an anomalously high temperature of about 750 K.[23][24]"[6]

"In 2007 it was discovered that the upper troposphere of Neptune's south pole was about 10 °C warmer than the rest of Neptune, which averages approximately -200 °C (70 K).[25] The warmth differential is enough to let methane, which elsewhere lies frozen in Neptune's upper atmosphere, leak out as gas through the south pole and into space. The relative "hot spot" is due to Neptune's axial tilt, which has exposed the south pole to the Sun for the last quarter of Neptune's year, or roughly 40 Earth years. As Neptune slowly moves towards the opposite side of the Sun, the south pole will be darkened and the north pole illuminated, causing the methane release to shift to the north pole.[26]"[6]

Classical planets[edit]

“Neptune is never visible to the naked eye, having a brightness between magnitudes +7.7 and +8.0,[27][28][6].

Neptune ... was the Roman god of water and the sea[29] in Roman mythology and religion. He is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune was the brother of Jupiter [Italic Neptune has been securely identified as a god of freshwater sources as well as the sea.][29][30].

Syncretic traces of a Lybian/Punic agrarian god of fresh water sources, with the epithet Frugifer, "fruit-bearer"; have been enumerated”[31][30].

The “German scholar H. Petersmann proposed an etymology from IE rootstem *nebh- related to clouds and foggs ... The concept would be close to that expressed in the name of Greek god [Uranus].”[30]

“Indo-European people, having no direct knowledge of the sea as they originated from inland areas, reused the theology of a deity originally either chthonic or wielding power over inland freshwaters as the god of the sea.[32] This feature has been preserved particularly well in the case of Neptune who was definitely a god of springs, lakes and rivers before becoming also a god of the sea, as is testified by the numerous findings of inscriptions mentioning him in the proximity of such locations. Servius the grammarian also explicitly states Neptune is in charge of all the rivers, springs and waters.[33][30]

"I find it most useful to refer to the eight planets Mercury through Neptune as the "classical planets"."[34] "By restricting the new definition to the eight existing “classical planets,” the second resolution implied that dwarf planets were a subcategory of planets, too."[35]

See also[edit]


  1. Ginger Lehrman and Ian B Hogue, Sarah Palmer, Cheryl Jennings, Celsa A Spina, Ann Wiegand, Alan L Landay, Robert W Coombs, Douglas D Richman, John W Mellors, John M Coffin, Ronald J Bosch, David M Margolis (August 13, 2005). "Depletion of latent HIV-1 infection in vivo: a proof-of-concept study". Lancet 366 (9485): 549-55. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67098-5. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 
  2. P. Kenneth Seidelmann, B. A. Archinal, M. F. A'hearn, A. Conrad, G. J. Consolmagno, D. Hestroffer, J. L. Hilton, G. A. Krasinsky, G. Neumann (2007). "Report of the IAU/IAG Working Group on cartographic coordinates and rotational elements: 2006". Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy 98 (3): 155-80. doi:10.1007/s10569-007-9072-y. 
  3. Lavoie, Sue (8 January 1998). "PIA01142: Neptune Scooter". NASA. Retrieved 26 March 2006. 
  4. Lavoie, Sue (16 February 2000). "PIA02245: Neptune's blue-green atmosphere". NASA JPL. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  5. Hammel, H. B.; Lockwood, G. W.; Mills, J. R.; Barnet, C. D. (1995). "Hubble Space Telescope Imaging of Neptune's Cloud Structure in 1994". Science 268 (5218): 1740–1742. doi:10.1126/science.268.5218.1740. PMID 17834994. 
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 "Neptune". Wikipedia (San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc). February 17, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-21.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Neptune" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Neptune" defined multiple times with different content
  7. 7.0 7.1 Burgess (1991):64–70.
  8. Lavoie, Sue (29 January 1996). "PIA00064: Neptune's Dark Spot (D2) at High Resolution". NASA JPL. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  9. Sromovsky, L. A.; Fry, P. M.; Dowling, T. E.; Baines, K. H. (2000). "The unusual dynamics of new dark spots on Neptune". Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 32: 1005. 
  10. Max, C. E.; Macintosh, B. A.; Gibbard, S. G.; Gavel, D. T.; Roe, H. G.; de Pater, I.; Ghez, A. M.; Acton, D. S.; Lai, O.; Stomski, P.; Wizinowich, P. L. (2003). "Cloud Structures on Neptune Observed with Keck Telescope Adaptive Optics". The Astronomical Journal, 125 (1): 364–375. doi:10.1086/344943. 
  11. Villard, Ray; Devitt, Terry (15 May 2003). "Brighter Neptune Suggests A Planetary Change Of Seasons". Hubble News Center. Retrieved 26 February 2008. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Suomi, V. E.; Limaye, S. S.; Johnson, D. R. (1991). "High Winds of Neptune: A possible mechanism". Science 251 (4996): 929–932. doi:10.1126/science.251.4996.929. PMID 17847386. 
  13. Hammel, H. B.; Beebe, R. F.; De Jong, E. M.; Hansen, C. J.; Howell, C. D.; Ingersoll, A. P.; Johnson, T. V.; Limaye, S. S.; Magalhaes, J. A.; Pollack, J. B.; Sromovsky, L. A.; Suomi, V. E.; Swift, C. E. (1989). "Neptune's wind speeds obtained by tracking clouds in Voyager 2 images". Science 245 (4924): 1367–1369. doi:10.1126/science.245.4924.1367. PMID 17798743. 
  14. Elkins-Tanton, Linda T. (2006). Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and the Outer Solar System. New York: Chelsea House. ISBN 978-0-8160-5197-7. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 [1]
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  16. Phil Davis (October 9, 2009). "Brighter Neptune". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Crisp, D.; Hammel, H. B. (June 14, 1995). "Hubble Space Telescope Observations of Neptune". Hubble News Center. Retrieved April 22, 2007.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Crisp" defined multiple times with different content
  18. Munsell, Kirk; Smith, Harman; Harvey, Samantha (November 13, 2007). "Neptune overview". Solar System Exploration. NASA. Retrieved February 20, 2008. 
  19. VLT/ESO/NASA/JPL/Paris Observatory (September 18, 2007). "Neptune's 'Hot' South Pole (VISIR/VLT)". Santiago, Chile: European Southern Observatory. Retrieved 2012-07-11. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Munsell, Kirk; Smith, Harman; Harvey, Samantha (13 November 2007). "Neptune overview". Solar System Exploration. NASA. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 
  21. Hubbard, W. B. (1997). "Neptune's Deep Chemistry". Science 275 (5304): 1279–1280. doi:10.1126/science.275.5304.1279. PMID 9064785. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Jonathan I. Lunine (1993). "The Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 31: 217–63. doi:10.1146/annurev.aa.31.090193.001245. 
  23. Broadfoot, A.L.; Atreya, S.K.; Bertaux, J.L. et al. (1999). "Ultraviolet Spectrometer Observations of Neptune and Triton" (pdf). Science 246 (4936): 1459–1456. doi:10.1126/science.246.4936.1459. PMID 17756000. 
  24. [2]
    This citation will be automatically completed in the next few minutes. You can jump the queue or expand by hand
  25. Orton, G. S., Encrenaz T., Leyrat C., Puetter, R. and Friedson, A. J. (2007). "Evidence for methane escape and strong seasonal and dynamical perturbations of Neptune's atmospheric temperatures". Astronomy and Astrophysics 473: L5–L8. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078277. 
  26. Orton, Glenn; Encrenaz, Thérèse (18 September 2007). "A Warm South Pole? Yes, On Neptune!". ESO. Retrieved 20 September 2007. 
  27. David R. Williams (September 1, 2004). "Neptune Fact Sheet". NASA. Retrieved August 14, 2007. 
  28. Fred Espenak (July 20, 2005). "Twelve Year Planetary Ephemeris: 1995–2006". NASA. Retrieved March 1, 2008. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 J. Toutain, Les cultes païens de l'Empire romain, vol. I (1905:378)
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 "Neptune (mythology)". Wikipedia (San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc). April 9, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  31. Alain Cadotte, "Neptune Africain", Phoenix 56.3/4 (Autumn/Winter 2002:330-347)
  32. G. Wissowa Religion un Kultus der Römer Munich, 1912; A. von Domaszewski Abhandlungen zur römische Religion Leipzig und Berlin, 1909; R. Bloch above
  33. Raymond Bloch "Quelques remarques sur Poseidon, Neptunus and Nethuns" in Revue de l'Histoire des Religions 1981 p.341-352, p.346; Servius Ad Georgicae IV 24
  34. R. P. Binzel (December 2006). "Definition of a planet: Prague 2006 IAU resolutions". The Minor Planet Bulletin 33 (4): 106-7. 
  35. Govert Schilling (September 1, 2006). "Underworld Character Kicked Out of Planetary Family". Science 313 (5791): 1214-5. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]