Neptune’s South Pole is the Warmest Place on the Planet

Here on Earth we think of the poles as cold places, but on Neptune, it’s just the opposite. New images of the planet’s southern pole show that it’s actually 10-degrees warmer than the rest of Neptune. Now don’t pack your bathing suit just yet, Neptune’s average temperature is still -200 degrees Celsius (-328 F); so it’s still really, really cold.

The images were gathered using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (now that’s how you name a telescope). The observatory uses a special mid-infrared camera/spectrometer to reveal the different temperatures across planet.

Obviously Neptune is different from the Earth, but consider this. The planet is located 30 times farther away from the Sun than the Earth. This means only 1/900th the sunlight reaches Neptune than what we get here on Earth. Still, it’s enough sunlight to warm up the southern pole, which is currently tilted towards the Sun.

It’s been receiving the warmth from the Sun for about 40 years now, and the ongoing input of solar energy continuously heats up the polar region to the point that it’s warmer than any other part of Neptune by about 10 degrees Celsius. This heating also whips up the planets winds into some of the strongest in the Solar System. On Neptune, winds can travel more than 2,000 km/hour, faster than any other planet – you definitely don’t want to bring your swimsuit.

The temperatures in the region are high enough that methane gas, normally frozen out of the upper atmosphere, can actually leak out through the region. And this helps explain why scientists have seen abundances of this molecule in the atmosphere.

Original Source: ESO News Release