Useful Notes / Neptune

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Le Verrier—without leaving his study, without even looking at the sky—had found the unknown planet [Neptune] solely by mathematical calculation, and, as it were, touched it with the tip of his pen!
—Camille Flammarion, Astronomy for Amateurs

The eighth planet from the Sun, Neptune was named after the Roman God of the Sea because of its blue hue. (Though Modern Greece calls it "Poseidon"). Neptune is a gas giant. Similarly to Jupiter's Great Red Spot, Neptune has its own series of atmospheric storms collectively titled as "The Great Dark Spot." Unlike the Red Spot, the Dark Spot comes and goes; the original southern Dark Spot was discovered in 1989 and had disappeared by 1994, with another prominent spot appearing in the north some years later.

Like all gaseous planets, Neptune experiences differential rotation: its equator rotates faster than its poles. Unique to Neptune is that it experiences differentiated differential rotation: its interior rotates faster than its visible cloud layer.

Similar to Uranus, an oddity of Neptune's magnetic field is that it is heavily tilted relative to the planet's axis, as well as off-center. This shared mystery of the ice giants remains unsolved.

Neptune has the honor of being the first planet to be discovered with mathematics as opposed to actual astronomic observation. Fitting since it is the only planet that can never be observed from Earth without a telescope. It was first spotted way back in the 1610s by Galileo, but he mistook the planet for a fixed star due to Neptune having begun its apparent retrograde motion that same day. When predictions for Uranus's orbits were proven to be off, it was hypothesized that another planet was exerting some gravitational force. After years of calculations, Urban Le Verrier proved Neptune's existence. Triton was found just seventeen days later.

Neptune's current claim to fame: it has the fastest winds in the solar system, as high as 2,100 km/hour. The reason for this is that despite its distance, Neptune radiates 2.61 times as much energy as it receives from the Sun. Like Jupiter, this is because Neptune is contracting.

Discoveries from the 1990s onward have shown just how profound an effect that Neptune has had on the Solar System's structure. The inner boundary of the Kuiper Belt is defined by Neptune's gravity, and the scattered disk exists almost entirely because of Kuiper Belt objects that passed too close to the planet and were launched into eccentric orbits. In this way, Neptune is the most similar to Jupiter of any other planet.

Neptune completed its first full orbital period from its discovery in September 2010.

It would take until the 20th century to discover its ring system as well as any new moons, the bulk of which were discovered by Voyager 2. Even so, more recent observations in July of 2013 showed that the probe had missed some moons, bringing Neptune's moon count up to fourteen.

A little known fact about Neptune is that, for the first five or so years after it was discovered, it was considered the Solar System's twelth planet. The demotion of the four largest asteroidsnote  five years after Neptune's discovery bumped it up to the eighth.
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