Category Archives: Neptune

A New Moon for Neptune!

S2004/N1 is the latest moon to be discovered around distant Neptune

S/2004 N 1 is the latest moon to be discovered around distant Neptune

Big, blue, and blustery, distant Neptune is the outermost “real” planet in our solar system — a frigid gas giant nearly 3 billion miles from Earth orbiting the Sun with a handful of faint ring segments and a retinue of 13 moons… um, on second thought, better make that 14.

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A Backwards Moon

Voyager 2 mosaic of Neptune's largest moon Triton

At 1,680 miles across, the frigid and wrinkled Triton is distant Neptune’s largest moon. It orbits the planet backwards – that is, in the opposite direction that Neptune rotates – and is the only moon one of only two moons in our solar system to do so. This leads many astronomers to believe that Triton is a captured Kuiper Belt Object that fell into orbit around Neptune at some point in our solar system’s nearly 4.7-billion-year history.

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A New Look at Neptune

Ok, ok… it’s not “new” (it’s from a HubbleNews article released in 2005) but since I just came across it today, it’s new to me! So maybe it’s new to you too. :)

Can’t see the video below? Click here.

The video above was created from images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, showing distant Neptune (we’re talking four and a half billion km away here!) rotating on its axis, four of its 13 known moons visible in orbit. The images were taken every 4-5 hours between the days of April 25th – 30th, 2005, and were then combined to make a dynamic movie animation. And what a cool animation it is! Read the rest of this entry

A Sense of “Scale”

Here’s a very cool animation by motion designer Brad Goodspeed, showing what our night sky might look like were some of the other planets in our solar system at the same distance from us as the Moon. (About 240,000 miles / 384,000 km.)

Wait for Jupiter to make quite an entrance…

While watching the video of the lunar eclipse I posted the other day I was looking at the curvature of the earth’s shadow on the moon. It made me think about how large the earth might look if an exact copy of it was up there instead of the moon. Soon curiosity got the better of me, and I was animating!

Thanks Brad! Great work, if you ever add any more of the planets in I’ll be sure to share that here as well!

See the video on Brad’s blog post here.

Animation: Brad Goodspeed / Music: ‘Where We’re Calling From’ from the album ‘The Last Broadcast’ by ‘Doves’.

Blast from the Past

Image of Triton from the Voyager spacecraft, August 1989

This photo of Neptune’s largest moon Triton was taken by Voyager 2 on August 24, 1989…nearly 21 years ago! With a resolution of about six miles per pixel it reveals the rugged mountainous terrain of this frozen moon in the far reaches of our solar system, including its signature “cantaloupe terrain” seen here in the upper half of the photo. The unique bumpy texture is thought to be the result of wholesale resurfacing of the frozen surface by some widespread geologic process, but it really is uncanny in its resemblance to the familiar fruit!

The colors seen in this photo are not “true” color….this is a compostion made from green, violet and ultraviolet channels. The bluish colors would not be seen by the human eye, in reality the moon would appear much more of a dusky pinkish and mottled grey color.

Thought to originally be a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) from the icy outskirts of the solar system, Triton orbits Neptune in a retrograde – that is, backwards – orbit, opposite of the rotation of the planet and the “typical” direction of most moons.

Read more about Triton on the Planetary Society’s site here.

Image credit: NASA/JPL

Into the Blue

Despina crosses the face of Neptune

Despina crosses the face of Neptune

Discovered by philosophy professor Ted Stryk in the archives of Voyager 2 image data, four separate images were combined to show the shadow of Despina – lightened for better visibility – crossing over the sky blue face of Neptune.

Neptune, now officially the outermost planet in our solar system, was visited by Voyager 2 in August of 1989 during its tour of the outer planets. The four images used to create the composite shown here were taken on August 24, 1989, nine minutes apart. They had not been considered of much importance until Stryk noticed that they showed the shadow of 91-mile-wide Despina on the cloudtops of Neptune’s northern hemisphere and, in the fourth frame, the moon itself crossing the face of the planet.

Neptune is the fourth largest planet in our solar system and boasts the highest wind speeds yet found – 1,250 mph winds scream through the skies of this gas giant! Its color comes from its atmospheric composition…hydrogen and helium are invisible, but methane absorbs the red spectrum and so it appears blue. Like the other gas planets Neptune has a system of rings, although nowhere near as extravagant as Saturn’s. It has 13 known moons.

Great find Ted, and congrats for your Astronomy Picture of the Day!

Image: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

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