The weather on Neptune surprises

If every spring you look forward to the arrival of summer, counting down the days until the first of June, then if you were on Neptune, you would have a hard time. This planet “introverted” is located at a distance of 4.5 billion kilometers from the Sun (30 times farther than the Earth). And it would be fine if there were only cold for minus 200 degrees and winds blowing at a speed of 600 km / h. So also spring lasts on Neptune for almost 40 years! Although summer, winter and autumn, it is worth admitting, last the same amount. But would you have the patience and strength to wait for the Neptunian season to change? Well, if you are a lover of eternal summer, then we have good news for you on this April cosmic day – summer in the southern hemisphere of Neptune began 17 years ago!

The planet makes a complete revolution around the Sun in 165 Earth years, and the axis of rotation of Neptune is tilted 28 degrees relative to the plane of its orbit. Due to this tilt, on Neptune, as on Earth, there is a change of seasons. And it would be logical to assume that when “summer” comes to one of the hemispheres, it should become warmer there. However, as astronomers write in The Planetary Science Journal, the Neptunian summer of the 2005-2045 season was not marked by warming, but, on the contrary, by a noticeable cooling. However, replaced by the same sharp warming.

After analyzing hundreds of infrared images of Neptune taken over the past 17 years, the researchers were able to assess how the average temperature of Neptune’s stratosphere, as well as its individual regions, has changed over this time. Despite the onset of summer, most of the planet’s stratosphere cooled by about 8 degrees between 2003 and 2018. Astronomers were also “surprised” by the south pole of Neptune – from 2018 to 2020, the temperature in this area increased by as much as 11 degrees Celsius.

So far, there is no unequivocal explanation for such temperature jumps. Neptune’s upper atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. Closer to the surface, in the troposphere, clouds of condensed hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane are already forming. The temperature of the atmosphere can be influenced not only by the change of seasons and “warming up” by the energy of the Sun, but also by the processes of intensive transfer of various components of the atmosphere along with air currents, as well as chemical reactions. Astronomers hope that the James Webb Space Telescope, which is expected to be operational by this summer, will help open a new page in the study of Neptune’s atmosphere. Fortunately, summer on Earth comes faster than on Neptune, and there is not much time left to wait!

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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