Neptune completes first orbit since discovery

by Joe on Jul. 12th, 2011

Neptune Anniversary Images
Neptune Anniversary ImagesCourtesy NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Neptune arrived today at the same location in space where it was discovered nearly 165 years ago. To commemorate the event, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took these "anniversary pictures" of the blue-green giant planet.

Neptune is the most distant major planet in our solar system (alas, poor Pluto). German astronomer Johann Galle discovered the planet on September 23, 1846. The planet is 2.8 billion miles (4.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun. Under the Sun's weak pull at that distance, Neptune plods along in its huge orbit, slowly completing one revolution approximately every 165 years. Due to this slow orbit, each of Neptune's "seasons" lasts for about 40 years.

The four Hubble images of Neptune were taken with the Wide Field Camera 3 on June 25-26, during the planet's 16-hour rotation. The snapshots were taken at roughly four-hour intervals, offering a full view of the planet. The images reveal high-altitude clouds in the northern and southern hemispheres. The clouds are composed of methane ice crystals.

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