Due to its gorgeous color, this planet was named after the Greek god of the sea and ocean, Poseidon. According to science, it’s also the coldest and windiest planet of our solar system.
This, despite its core producing almost as much heat as the sun. Speaking of the sun, this planet also happens to be the farthest from our solar system’s main source of heat.
Can you guess which fascinating, gorgeous, yet mysterious planet we’re talking about? Yep, we’re talking about Neptune. If you wish to learn more information about this blue celestial “jewel,” read the following list 25 Things You Need To Know About Neptune.
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Named after Poseidon
Like the rest of the planets in the solar system, Neptune got its name from an ancient Greek god: Poseidon.
Later, the Romans translated the sea god’s name into Latin and the rest is history. Now you also know why this planet’s symbol is the trident.
Invisible (Without a Telescope)
Neptune is the only planet in our solar system that can’t be seen from Earth without the aid of a telescope.
See, the beautiful blue planet is “only” 2.7 billion miles away from Earth.
Mathematics Revealed Its Existence
Neptune’s existence was visually confirmed in 1846. It was unknown to ancient people, or for that matter, every human who lived before that year.
Further, Neptune was the first planet discovered by mathematical rather than observational means. The French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier predicted the existence and position of the planet in the 1840s with the help of mathematics.
The discovery of Neptune was seen as a triumphant validation of celestial mechanics, and is considered one of the most significant moments of 19th-century science. Oh, and Neptune was originally named Le Vierrier.
Most Distant Planet from the Sun
Neptune is the eighth and farthest planet from the sun, at a distance of about 2.8 billion miles, or 4.5 billion kilometers if you prefer.
Gravity Like Earth
Although Neptune is much larger than Earth, its surface gravity is about the same as the surface gravity on Earth. This is because Neptune is made up of gases and is not solid like Earth.
This makes Neptune very light for its size. The surface gravity on Neptune is about 110% of the surface gravity on Earth.
You Would Weigh More
The slightly stronger gravitational pull on Neptune means that we would weigh a little more on that planet.
So, if someone weighs 200 pounds on our planet, this 10% difference in gravity would translate to an additional 20 pounds on Neptune.
No Solid Surface
Neptune has no solid surface. The blue-green disc we have seen in images is actually an illusion.
What we see is actually the tops of some very deep gas clouds, which give way to water and other melted ices that lie over an approximately Earth-sized core, which is made up of silicate rock and a nickel-iron mix.
So, if you were to attempt to stand on Neptune, you would end up sinking through the gaseous layers.
Coldest Planet in the Solar System
As the planets in our solar system get further away from the sun, they generally get colder.
That makes Neptune the coldest planet, with an average temperature of -353 degrees Fahrenheit (-214 C).
Windiest Planet, Too
Neptune’s winds are the fastest in the solar system, reaching 1,600 miles per hour.
Neptune has also been known to have gigantic, spinning storms that could swallow the whole Earth. Good thing we orbit a safe distance away!
Fourth-Largest Planet in the Solar System
Neptune is the fourth-largest planet in our solar system. It has a diameter of 34,503 miles. Its volume is 57.7 times the volume of Earth, which means that 57 Earths could fit inside of Neptune (with a little room leftover).
It’s also 17 times heavier than Earth, which means that even Chuck Norris would have a hard time lifting Neptune on his shoulders.
Exploration of Neptune
We’ve only sent one spacecraft to Neptune. During the summer of 1989, NASA’s Voyager 2 became the first spacecraft to observe the planet.
Passing about 3,000 miles above Neptune’s north pole, it was the closest approach Voyager 2 made to any planet. This took place 12 years after the spacecraft took off from Earth.
The "Great Dark Spot"
Neptune has a “Great Dark Spot,” as NASA astronomers refer to it. It’s actually an anticyclonic storm that appears to come and go. According to observations made by NASA’s Voyager 2 space probe in 1989, the Great Dark Spot generated stunning white clouds over Neptune, similar to how cirrus clouds form from cyclones on Earth.
It’s also estimated that this Great Dark Spot is roughly the same size as Earth. Why they call such a humongous thing just a “spot,” we have no idea!
A Powerful Magnetic Field
Neptune’s magnetic field is about 27 times more powerful than Earth’s.
Interestingly, this magnetic field sits at an angle on the planet, changing chaotically as it interacts with the solar wind.
It Has Five Rings
Although they are really thin and not easy to see, Neptune has five rings.
The rings are named Galle, Le Verrier, Lassell, Arago, and Adams. These names are in honor of the astronomers who made important discoveries regarding the planet.
Blue for a Reason
Neptune’s atmosphere is made up predominately of hydrogen and helium, with some methane. This small portion of methane gas in Neptune’s atmosphere is what makes the planet appear blue (and beautiful).
How? Well, methane absorbs reddish light and reflects bluer colors.
Neptune Has 14 Moons
Neptune has 14 moons; the latest was discovered in 2013. Each of the moons is named after an ancient Greek water deity.
Moving from closest to Neptune to furthest out, their names are Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Galatea, Larissa, S/2004 N1 (which has yet to receive an official name), Proteus, Triton, Nereid, Halimede, Sao, Laomedeia, Psamathe, and Neso.
It Has a "Weird" Moon
Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, orbits the planet backward relative to Neptune’s other moons.
Scientists suggest that a day will come when Triton will be torn apart by Neptune’s gravitational forces. This likely will not happen any time soon.
Densest of the "Gas" Planets
There are four planets in our solar system that are known as gas planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Even though Neptune is the smallest of the four, it’s the densest.
It's an "Ice Giant"
With the continual discovery of new data and information in the world of science, astronomers seem to change their minds often. That’s how Uranus and Neptune are not considered “gas giants” anymore; they’re now called “ice giants.”
Keep in mind that there’s not much ice on Neptune. In astrophysics and planetary science, the term “ice” refers to volatile chemical compounds such as water, ammonia, or methane.
It Has a Really Long Year
Truth be told, 2.8 billion miles far away from the sun is a really LONG distance to cover. As a result of this, it takes Neptune 165 Earth-years to orbit the sun.
In other words, an average human would need two full lifetimes to experience a single year on Neptune.
But a Short Day
However, a day on Neptune is shorter than a day on our planet.
In contrast to Earth’s 24-hour day, Neptune has a 16-hour day, which is a result of the swift rotation it has upon its axis.
Its First "Birthday"
On July 11, 2011, Neptune completed its first full orbit since its discovery in 1846.
As we mentioned already, one year on Neptune is 165 years on planet Earth. So, a belated happy birthday to Neptune.
Its Core Is Super Hot
At its core, Neptune reaches temperatures of up to 12,632 °F (7,000 °C). This unreal temperature is comparable to the surface of the sun.
The huge temperature differences between Neptune’s center and its surface is what creates the monstrous wind storms on the planet.
Pluto’s orbit sometimes “crosses” Neptune’s orbit, but they never collide. To be more specific, Pluto’s orbit crosses inside of Neptune’s orbit for 20 years out of every 248 years.
The last time Pluto crossed inside Neptune’s orbit was on February 7, 1979; at that time, it temporarily became the eighth planet from the sun.
Long Summers on Neptune
Technically, the summer lasts exactly the same amount of time as the other season on Neptune. How long is that? Oh, only about 41 years per season.
However, it just sounds funny to say that the summer lasts 41 years on a planet when the average temperature is -353 degrees Fahrenheit.