July 12, 2011

Neptune Concludes First Orbit Since Discovery

Neptune is closing in on its first full orbit since humans first saw the planet on September 23, 1846.

As of July 12, 2011 the planet has completed one Neptunian year orbit cycle, which has lasted for a duration of 164.79 Earth years since Johann Gottfried Galle first saw the planet using French mathematician Urbain le Verrier's theories.

Galle found Neptune after just an hour of searching in the night sky.

Verrier shares credit for his predictions with British scientist John Couch Adams.

Some say that the astronomer and mathematician Galileo was the first to actually discover Neptune.

"If you look at the drawings for January 1613, you can see a fantastic drawing of Jupiter and its moons," Dr Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society said in a statement to BBC News.

"It even includes an object labeled as 'fixed star' which is the first telescopic drawing of the planet Neptune."

Neptune was named after the Roman god of the sea and it is the Solar System's outermost planet.

The planet's atmosphere is made up of 80 percent hydrogen, 19 percent helium and traces of methane.

Neptune has only been photographed once from close range, which was by Voyager 2 in 1989. 

Because its seasons last 40 Earth years, only Neptune's spring and early summer have been closely documented. 

Scientists say that the blue-methane clouds whip around the planet at speeds of over 994mph, and storms on Neptune can cause winds of roughly 1,200mph.

NASA had plans to send the Neptune Orbiter to the planet in 2016, but that plan has been put on hold due to budget constraints.

Image Credit: NASA/Voyager 2 Team


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