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On July 12, 2011 Neptune, the furthest planet of our solar system, completed its first orbit since discovery in September 1846. Neptune is the forth largest among the eight planets. The planet, commonly known as the Blue Ice Giant, is at a distance of 2.8 billion miles (thirty Astronomical Units) from the sun and takes approximately 164.79 years to complete an orbit. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took pictures of Neptune to mark the completion of the orbit. The closest observation of Neptune and Triton was made by NASA's space probe Voyager 2 on August 25, 1989.

The Discovery

The earliest astronomer known to have observed Neptune was Galileo Galilei. Galileo had, in 1613, observed Neptune and had taken the planet to be a stationary star instead of a planet in retrograde motion. In 1821 the French astronomer Alexis Bouvard published his calculations of the orbit of planet Uranus. Subsequent deviations led Bouvard and other astronomers including John Couch Adams (1843) and Urbain Le Verrier (1846) to believe that the deviations were the result of the gravitational influence of another planet in the solar system. The existence of Neptune was thus theoretically proved before the actual discovery. Upon Le Verrier's insistence Johann Galle of the Berlin Observatory scoured the skies for Neptune and observed it on September 23, 1846 within a degree of Verrier's predicted location. Verrier and Adams are often credited equally with the discovery of Neptune.



The Blue Ice Giant

The name Neptune itself was suggested by Le Verrier and recommended by astronomer Friedrich Struve to the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. The name was adopted by astronomers across the world. The planet was named after the Roman God of the sea and marine life.

The fourth largest planet of our solar system, Neptune is approximately fifty-seven times the volume of Earth. It is the third-largest planet in terms of its mass and is about seventeen times the mass of Earth. The surface of Neptune is composed mostly of rock and ice. The ices have a high concentration of water, ammonia, and traces of Methane.

Neptune's atmosphere is composed of Helium, Hydrogen, and Methane. The uppermost strata of the planet's atmosphere has a high concentration of Methane which reflects back only blue; Neptune is referred to as the Blue Ice Giant. Neptune's atmosphere is one of the most volatile in the solar system. The storms are violent with wind speeds reaching up to 1,240 miles per hour. Neptune is also the coldest planet in our solar system. The surface temperature dips to about - 424 ºF

Neptune has thirteen moons known to us. The largest among these is Triton (discovered in October 1846). While the giant planet has six regular moons called Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Galatea, Larissa, and Proteus it also has other irregular moons including  Triton, Nereid, Halimede, Sao, Laomedeia, Neso, and Psamathe. The planet is known to have five dusty but faint rings as well.

Nine Planets or Eight?

From 1846 through 1930 Neptune came to be known as the farthest planet from the sun. In 1930, the discovery of Pluto made Neptune the eighth planet in our solar system. The discovery of the Kuiper belt in 1992 sparked off the debate among astronomers regarding Pluto's status as a planet. In 2006 the International Astronomical Union defined the word 'planet' as the celestial body in an orbit around the sun, somewhat rounded in shape and with a clear neighborhood. Pluto was, according to the definition, reclassified as a dwarf planet. Neptune, the ice giant, is once more the eighth and penultimate planet in our solar system.

What Astrologers Say

Astrologers the word over have been celebrating Neptune's completion of is orbit around the sun. According to astrologers, the planet represents mysteries, the esoteric sciences, and world peace. The return of Neptune to its original position thus represents a reawakening of mankind and sparks of an interest in spirituality making societies better equipped to apply their technological knowledge for the greater benefit of mankind. Though predictions for individuals differ, as a whole the event marks the beginning of a more peaceful era marked by collaboration between nations and societies. The completion of Neptune's orbit is also believed to signify an increased cultural influence in the lives of people

 

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