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This is an image of Neptune.
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NASA

A Look at the History of Neptune's Atmosphere

The giant planets have definitely changed since their formation. But how much remains to be seen.

Most of the original air of the giant planets remains in place. (The earth-like planets lost most of their atmospheres very soon after they formed because the atmosphere drifted away).

Unlike Jupiter or Saturn, which are made of the simple materials hydrogen and helium, Neptune is made mostly of icy material and other complex molecules such as methane. The reason for this is because the cloud from which the planets formed told what kind of material was to form near Neptune.


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An Overview of Neptune's Atmosphere

Neptune's atmosphere shows a striped pattern of clouds. This cloud pattern is very similar to that of Jupiter and Saturn. Neptune even has a Great Dark Spot similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The history...more

Neptune's Present Great Dark Spot

This image shows the new Great Dark Spot of Neptune, which was discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope. The image shown here, shows a "hole" in the clouds of Neptune in pink, in the northern hemisphere,...more

A Look at the History of Neptune's Atmosphere

The giant planets have definitely changed since their formation. But how much remains to be seen. Most of the original air of the giant planets remains in place. (The earth-like planets lost most of their...more

Neptune's Cirrus Clouds

This image shows some clouds known as "cirrus" clouds, extending for many kilometers across the face of Neptune. These clouds are very high up, for they can be seen to cast shadows on the lower clouds,...more

Neptune's Smog Hazes

This image of Neptune uses false colors to show where the smog is. The smog of Neptune can be seen in red along the edge of the image. These hazes of smog are found at very high altitudes, over the clouds...more

A Look at Neptune's Clouds

Like Jupiter and all the giant planets, Neptune's appearance shows a striped pattern of clouds. Other cloud shapes seen over time include a small dark spot, the "scooter" and the Great Dark Spot. The Great...more

How the Solar System may have formed from a spinning cloud

Scientists think that the solar system formed out of a spinning cloud of hydrogen and helium gas. Because the cloud was spinning, it flattened into a frisbee shape, just like a ball of pizza dough becomes...more

Discover Neptune

If you had a quiz question in school that asked what year Neptune was discovered, you'd probably choose 1846. But Neptune wasn't discovered the way all the other planets in our solar system were. Astronomers...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF