Neptune’s Birthday

A couple of weeks ago, there was a special day dedicated to Neptune. July 12, 2011 signifies the date that Neptune completed orbiting one full circuit around the Sun since it was first discovered on the night of September 23-24, 1846. The discovery of Neptune is noted as one of the most extraordinary stories in the history of astronomy. Although it is reported that Johann Gottfried Galle was the first to see the planet in Berlin’s observatory, many claim that this information is incorrect. Instead, they claim that the famous astronomer/mathematician Galileo was first to document the planet. His well known work, “The Starry Messenger” is proclaimed to point to the idea that he was the first discoverer. Another interesting piece of information that relates to the planet’s birthday is that Neptune’s gravitational perturbation of Uranus’s orbit is what helped predict the planet’s existence. It is the only planet to be discovered on purpose because scientists were looking for something that explained why Uranus’s orbit was acting strange. Amazingly, the planet was found only a degree from where it was predicted to be. Neptune is quite a mystery to astronomers and scientists. It is the farthest from the sun and impossible to view with the naked eye. The weather in Neptune is quite fascinating to scientists because it is cloudy and may have methane. Also, it is hard to observe because its seasons last 40 Earth years. Therefore, only the planet’s spring and early parts of summer have been observed. Moreover, July is not the best time to observe Neptune due to various reasons. One reason is that it does not reach up high enough until very early in the morning.

Furthermore, with respect to the stars, Neptune will not be anywhere close to the position it was discovered in because Earth is in a different section of its orbit. However, if you are curious to see Neptune regardless, any telescope or binoculars in good shape would do the job as long as you have a good planetarium program. Neptune gets closer to its discovery position amid the stars from the middle of October to December. Starting September, it may be easier to see because it is placed well in the early evening sky. Also, astronomers know very little about Neptune because it has only been photographed once up close during the Voyager 2 mission in 1989.

Many wonder if Neptune will ever be at the position it was discovered in space. Unfortunately, in respect to the average position of extremely far away galaxies, Neptune will never again return to its discovery position.

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