How could planets near to Neptune operate the way they had been? Astronomers knew there must have been a planet far away from our sun, so when Bouvard constructed the idea and Galle finally spotted the planet, a piece of our solar system’s puzzle fell into place. This gas giant planet takes its blue color the same way as Saturn, from a mix of hydrogen and helium, plus a much smaller dose of helium.
The Near-Miss of a Galilean Discovery
While Galileo has his lion’s share of discoveries, historians note that a few cloudy days in Italy probably stood between him and the discovery of Neptune. In 1613, while observing what he thought was a star close to Jupiter, Galileo saw Neptune and even noted that it moved a bit in relation to nearby stars. Were it not for cloudy Florentine skies on the following nights, the orbit of Neptune would have never been out of the reach of this great astronomer.
What Makes Planet Neptune Tick
Neptune is the furthest planet from the sun, so it does not feel the impact of that star in terms of warmth or ability to support life. Inside Neptune’s core, geologists expect to find many similarities with Earth. Outside, the similarities do not hold. Its color, a spectacular blue, is believed to be the result of the atmosphere’s controlling a red light, along with help from an unknown compound in Neptune’s atmosphere. Still, the similarities in color must be a result of this mix of helium, hydrogen and methane. It’s slushy mixture of gaseous particles, water and ice has also led to its reputation as a blue planet.
Great storms on the planet have been known to generate winds that clock around 1500 mph – the solar system’s most intense. Storms thought to eclipse the size of the Earth in size have been seen firing through the atmosphere around Neptune, traveling at over 700 miles per hour. Needless to say, events of this magnitude would wow any casual observer and captivated NASA scientists when seeing them first while using the Hubble telescope.
An Exploration of Neptune’s Moons
William Lassell, a brewer by trade with a keen interest in astronomy, was the first to identify Triton, the largest moon of Neptune. Further studies of this moon have led to amazing discoveries. Among them is the fact that Neptune and Triton actually move in opposite directions. This style of orbit is unique: no other planet has a moon moving against its planet’s rotation. Could Triton have once been a lesser planet? Evidence would suggest it was, before being pulled in by Neptune’s magnetic field.
In fact, most astronomers believe Triton will eventually crumble at the hands of its planet. Neptune continues to draw the moon nearer to itself, setting up a date with destiny many millions of years from now. Once Neptune gets Triton within its sphere of gravitational pull, it will likely be the end of this frigidly cold moon’s existence.
Until then, Neptune and Triton will continue their unusual system of orbit to the delight of observers everywhere. Though Triton is thought to be the coldest celestial body in our solar system, no one wishes such a fate upon this remarkable moon.