There are many ways to determine ‘how big is Neptune’. It has an equatorial radius 24,764 km, a polar radius of 24,341 km, and a surface area of 7.6408×10,sup>9km2. It has a volume of 6.254×1013km3, a mass of 1.0243×1026kg, and a mean density of 1.638 g/cm3. Now that you know most of the planet’s critical digits, here is a little information about its make up.
Neptune is the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun. It is the fourth-largest planet by diameter and the third-largest by mass. Neptune’s mass is 17 times that of the Earth. On average, Neptune orbits the Sun at a distance of 30.1 astronomical units. It was discovered on September 23, 1846. Neptune was the first planet found by mathematical prediction rather than direct observation. Alexis Bouvard deduced its existence from gravitational perturbations in the orbit of Uranus. The planet was later observed by Johann Galle. Its largest moon, Triton, was observed a short time later.
Neptune’s atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium along with traces of hydrocarbons and nitrogen. It also contains a high proportion of ices like: water, ammonia, and methane. Astronomers occasionally categorize Neptune as an ice giant. The interior of Neptune, like that of Uranus, is primarily composed of ices and rock. Traces of methane in the outermost regions in part account for the planet’s blue appearance. Neptune’s atmosphere is notable for its active and visible weather patterns. When Voyager 2 flew by the planet’s southern hemisphere possessed a Great Dark Spot. These weather patterns are driven by the strongest sustained winds of any planet in the Solar System, with recorded wind speeds as high as 2,100 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. Temperatures at the planet’s center are approximately 5,000°C.
Neptune has a planetary ring system. The rings may consist of ice particles coated with silicates or carbon-based material, which gives them a reddish hue. The three main rings are the narrow Adams Ring, 63,000 km from the center of Neptune, the Le Verrier Ring, at 53,000 km, and the broader, fainter Galle Ring, at 42,000 km. A faint outward extension to the Le Verrier Ring has been named Lassell; it is bounded at its outer edge by the Arago Ring at 57,000 km. Not only is the planet large, but it has many interesting features as well.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Neptune. Listen here, Episode 63: Neptune.