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NEPTUNE

Neptune is the eighth planet from the Sun in our Solar


System. Named for the Roman god of the sea, it is the
fourth-largest planet by diameter and the third-largest by
mass. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth and is slightly
more massive than its near-twin Uranus, which is 15 Earth
masses and not as dense.[12] On average, Neptune orbits the
Sun at a distance of 30.1 AU, approximately 30 times the
Earth-Sun distance. Its astronomical symbol is , a stylized
version of the god Neptune's trident.

Discovered on September 23, 1846,[1] Neptune was the first


planet found by mathematical prediction rather than by
empirical observation. Unexpected changes in the orbit of
Uranus led Alexis Bouvard to deduce that its orbit was
subject to gravitational perturbation by an unknown planet.
Neptune was subsequently observed by Johann Galle within
a degree of the position predicted by Urbain Le Verrier, and
its largest moon, Triton, was discovered shortly thereafter,
though none of the planet's remaining 12 moons were
located telescopically until the 20th century. Neptune has
been visited by only one spacecraft, Voyager 2, which flew
by the planet on August 25, 1989.

Neptune is similar in composition to Uranus, and both have


compositions which differ from those of the larger gas giants
Jupiter and Saturn. Neptune's atmosphere, while similar to
Jupiter's and Saturn's in that it is composed primarily of
hydrogen and helium, along with traces of hydrocarbons and
possibly nitrogen, contains a higher proportion of "ices" such
as water, ammonia and methane. Astronomers sometimes
categorize Uranus and Neptune as "ice giants" in order to
emphasize these distinctions.[13] The interior of Neptune, like
that of Uranus, is primarily composed of ices and rock. [14]
Traces of methane in the outermost regions in part account
for the planet's blue appearance.[15]

In contrast to the relatively featureless atmosphere of


Uranus, Neptune's atmosphere is notable for its active and
visible weather patterns. At the time of the 1989 Voyager 2
flyby, for example, the planet's southern hemisphere
possessed a Great Dark Spot comparable to the Great Red
Spot on Jupiter. These weather patterns are driven by the
strongest sustained winds of any planet in the Solar System,
with recorded wind speeds as high as 2100 km/h. Because of
its great distance from the Sun, Neptune's outer atmosphere
is one of the coldest places in the Solar System, with
temperatures at its cloud tops approaching −218 °C (55 K).
Temperatures at the planet's centre, however, are
approximately 5,400 K (5,000 °C). Neptune has a faint and
fragmented ring system, which may have been detected during
the 1960s but was only indisputably confirmed in 1989 by
Voyager 2.