Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The mysterious birthday Neptune
Neptune is approximately 4400 million kilometers away from Earth. Neptune is about to celebrate its first birthday. On July 12 will be a year-Neptunian-terrestrial or 164.79 years since its discovery on September 24, 1846. But why do we know so little about the distant planet?
At approximately 4400 million kilometers from Earth lies Neptune, the first planet in the solar system to be discovered deliberately. After classification of the planet Uranus in 1780, astronomers have been puzzled by his strange orbit. Scientists concluded that either Isaac Newton's laws had a fundamental flaw or something else-another-planet Uranus was pulling its expected orbit. And so began the search for the eighth planet.
"It was an incredible case of mathematics which made finding a needle in a haystack seem like something a child could do in ten minutes," says Dr. Alan Chapman, author of "Victorian Amateur Astronomer" (The Victorian amateur astronomer).
While mathematical predictions had been made during previous decades, it was not until the theories of the French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier were tested-in the Berlin Observatory, Johann Gottfried Galle that the planet was first seen.
Neptune cannot be seen from Earth without a telescope. After only an hour of searching, Neptune was first observed on the evening of September 23, 1846. It was found almost exactly where Le Verrier had predicted it would be. Independently, British scientist John Couch Adams also reached similar results and now both he and Le Verrier are given joint credit for the discovery.
However, many claim that it was not Galle who documented the planet first, but the famous astronomer and mathematician Galileo. In his famous "The Starry Messenger" some evidence points to his discovery. "If you look at the drawings of January 1613, you can see a fantastic picture of Jupiter and its moons," said Dr Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society British.
"It even includes an object labeled as 'fixed star', which is the first telescopic drawing of the planet Neptune," he says. Controversies apart, yet little is known about the planet comparatively.
And how is Neptune?
Part of the problem is that there is no way that the planet is observed with the naked eye and before the development of the Hubble telescope, scientific observation was very difficult.
So how is Neptune?
Following the declassification of Pluto in 2006, Neptune is now the outermost planet of the solar system. "It's a piece of frozen gases and so I guess it's not a terribly friendly," says Chapman. "Let's wish him a happy birthday, but maybe we'll stay as far away as we can from it because we will welcome," he says. One of the most interesting things is Neptune for climate scientists.
"Cloudy with a Chance of methane" is how the scientist Heidi Hammel, of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, describes it. Winds can reach 1,930 km / h creating storms unimaginable on Earth. These big storms are seen as dark spots in a similar way as is observed Jupiter's Great Red Spot.
The reason why astronomers know so little is because the planet has been photographed only once at close range, in the misiónVoyager 2 in 1989. In addition, because their seasons last 40 Earth years, only Neptune spring and early summer have been well documented. "Every time we go to a telescope and observe this planet is doing something new.'s doing something we had not thought of before," says Hammel.
What Hammel found was that storms were appearing, were formed and were moving much faster than previously thought. She was watching a planet very different from photos taken by Voyager 2. "Actually we've only been observing Neptune with large telescopes since shortly before 1989," he adds. "We have not seen for a long time. This planet is not for the impatient," he says.
The place of Pluto
The opportunity to learn more about the planet up close still seems far, far more than the billions of miles that separate it from the Earth. The missions of the U.S. Space Agency (NASA, for its acronym in English) to discover more about the planet have been sidelined for now due to budget constraints. Many claim that Galileo was who documented the planet first.
The Neptune Orbiter mission, which once rose would be launched in 2016, is no longer on the list of proposals for NASA missions. "We've never had a dedicated mission to Neptune," said Dr Robin Catchpole, Institute of Astronomy, and University of Cambridge, England.
"We know how it fits into the sequence of the planets in terms of composition, but not much else is known," he adds. Even the New Horizons mission to discover more about Pluto and the outer Solar System, which must pass through the path of the orbit of Neptune on August 24, 2014, has been organized to look closely to this planet.
Instead, they take pictures of the planet and its moon in order to test the imaging equipment rather than scientific purposes. And this mission is allowing some wonder if it can be reclassified Pluto as the ninth planet in the solar system after it was stripped of his title in 2006 for primary planet. If realized, Neptune would lose the honor of being the farthest planet from the sun. "If Pluto is named as a planet or not, it is a matter of semantics," says Catchpole.
"The situation with the rankings is that Pluto does not fit into the system (now) very well. Not think it will change again," he adds. So Happy Birthday Neptune although any lighting candles on a birthday cake can be a delicate feat due to high winds.
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