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Neptune is the eighth planet from the Sun and the farthest known planet in the Solar System. It is the fourth-largest planet in the Solar System by diameter, the third-most-massive planet, and the densest giant planet. It is 17 times the mass of Earth, and slightly more massive than its near-twin Uranus. Neptune is denser and physically smaller than Uranus because its greater mass causes more gravitational compression of its atmosphere. Being composed primarily of gases and liquids, it has no well-defined solid surface. The planet orbits the Sun once every 164.8 years at an average distance of 30.1 astronomical units (4.5 billion kilometres; 2.8 billion miles). It is named after the Roman god of the sea and has the astronomical symbol ♆, representing Neptune's trident.[lower-alpha 4]

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Neptune ♆
Photograph taken by NASA's Voyager 2 in 1989
Discovered by
Discovery date23 September 1846
Pronunciation/ˈnɛptjn/ (Loudspeaker.svglisten)[2]
Named after
Latin Neptunus, via French Neptune
AdjectivesNeptunian (/nɛpˈtjniən/),[3] Poseidean[4]
Orbital characteristics[5][lower-alpha 1]
Epoch J2000
Aphelion30.33 AU (4.54 billion km)
Perihelion29.81 AU (4.46 billion km)
30.07 AU (4.50 billion km)
367.49 days[7]
5.43 km/s[7]
Inclination1.770° to ecliptic
6.43° to Sun's equator
0.74° to invariable plane[8]
Known satellites14
Physical characteristics
Mean radius
24,622±19 km[10][lower-alpha 2]
Equatorial radius
24,764±15 km[10][lower-alpha 2]
3.883 Earths
Polar radius
24,341±30 km[10][lower-alpha 2]
3.829 Earths
7.6187×109 km2[11][lower-alpha 2]
14.98 Earths
Volume6.253×1013 km3[7][lower-alpha 2]
57.74 Earths
Mass1.02413×1026 kg[7]
17.147 Earths
5.15×10−5 Suns
Mean density
1.638 g/cm3[7][lower-alpha 3]
11.15 m/s2[7][lower-alpha 2]
1.14 g
0.23[12] (estimate)
23.5 km/s[7][lower-alpha 2]
0.67125 d
16 h 6 m 36 s[6]
0.6713 day[7]
16 h 6 min 36 s
Equatorial rotation velocity
2.68 km/s (9,650 km/h)
28.32° (to orbit)[7]
North pole right ascension
19h 57m 20s[10]
North pole declination
Albedo0.290 (bond)[13]
0.442 (geom.)[14]
Surface temp. min mean max
1 bar level 72 K (−201 °C)[7]
0.1 bar (10 kPa) 55 K (−218 °C)[7]
7.67[15] to 8.00[15]
19.7±0.6 km
Composition by volume
  • 80%±3.2% hydrogen
  • 19%±3.2% helium
  • 1.5%±0.5% methane
  • ~0.019% hydrogen deuteride
  • ~0.00015% ethane
  • Icy volatiles:

    Neptune is not visible to the unaided eye and is the only planet in the Solar System found by mathematical prediction rather than by empirical observation. Unexpected changes in the orbit of Uranus led Alexis Bouvard to hypothesise that its orbit was subject to gravitational perturbation by an unknown planet. After Bouvard's death, the position of Neptune was predicted from his observations, independently, by John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier. Neptune was subsequently observed with a telescope on 23 September 1846[1] by Johann Galle within a degree of the position predicted by Le Verrier. Its largest moon, Triton, was discovered shortly thereafter, though none of the planet's remaining 13 known moons were located telescopically until the 20th century. The planet's distance from Earth gives it a very small apparent size, making it challenging to study with Earth-based telescopes. Neptune was visited by Voyager 2, when it flew by the planet on 25 August 1989; Voyager 2 remains the only spacecraft to have visited Neptune.[17][18] The advent of the Hubble Space Telescope and large ground-based telescopes with adaptive optics has recently allowed for additional detailed observations from afar.

    Like the gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn), Neptune's atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, along with traces of hydrocarbons and possibly nitrogen, but contains a higher proportion of ices such as water, ammonia and methane. Similar to Uranus, its interior is primarily composed of ices and rock;[19] both planets are normally considered "ice giants" to distinguish them.[20] Along with Rayleigh scattering, traces of methane in the outermost regions in part account for the planet's blue appearance.[21] Newest data from the Gemini observatory shows the blue colour is more saturated than the one present on Uranus due to thinner haze of Neptune's more active atmosphere.[22][23][24]

    In contrast to the hazy, relatively featureless atmosphere of Uranus, Neptune's atmosphere has active and visible weather patterns. For example, at the time of the Voyager 2 flyby in 1989, the planet's southern hemisphere had a Great Dark Spot comparable to the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. More recently, in 2018, a newer main dark spot and smaller dark spot were identified and studied.[25] In addition, 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 (580 m/s; 1,300 mph).[26] 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 55 K (−218 °C; −361 °F). Temperatures at the planet's centre are approximately 5,400 K (5,100 °C; 9,300 °F).[27][28] Neptune has a faint and fragmented ring system (labelled "arcs"), which was discovered in 1984, then later confirmed by Voyager 2.[29]