General Features of the
Planet Neptune


Neptune is currently the most distant planet from the Sun, with an orbital radius of 30 Astronomical Units and an orbital period of 165 years. Its diameter is about four times that of the Earth, which makes it the 4th largest planet. It is slightly smaller than Uranus, but its density is 1.6 g/cc (compared with 1.2 g/cc for Uranus), which makes it the 3rd most massive planet. The relatively low density indicates large concentrations of hydrogen and helium, but Uranus and Neptune both have much larger concentrations of heavier elements than Jupiter and Saturn. As for all the gas giant planets, models suggest rocky cores of maybe 15 Earth masses, but there is no direct confirmation of this.

The bluish color of the adjacent image is, as for Uranus, because of methane in the atmosphere, which absorbs red light, leaving the light scattered from Neptune preferentially enhanced at blue wavelengths. The period of rotation is about 16 hours, comparable to that of Uranus and much slower than for Jupiter and Saturn. The temperatures at the cloud tops are about -216 degrees Celsius, slightly warmer than for Uranus. Neptune, like Jupiter and Saturn but unlike Uranus, has an internal heat source and produces 2.7 times more heat than it absorbs.


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