Shop Windows to the Universe

Please help support Windows to the Universe, and our activities to help Earth and space science teachers, with a tax-exempt donation today!
This is an image of Neptune and its famous Great Dark Spot
Click on image for full size
NASA

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 didn't scan the sky with their powerful telescopes to find Neptune. They used math instead!

After the discovery of Uranus, astronomers were having trouble figuring out the planet's orbit. They realized that there must be another planet farther out than Uranus. They were right! Independently, French astronomer Leverrier and English astronomer John Couch Adams made the mathematical calculations of where Neptune should be and German astronomer Johann Galle observed it.

Neptune is the eighth planet in our solar sytem (most of the time, anyway). It's gravitational pull slightly changes Uranus' orbit, and that's how scientists found it!

All the planets were named after ancient gods. So when it came time to name this one, astronomers chose Neptune. Neptune was the Roman god of the deep seas.

Neptune's largest moon, Triton, was discovered at the same time as the planet. Another satellite, Nereid, wasn't found until 1949. The other six were spotted by Voyager II during its flyby in 1989. A lot of research has been done on Triton, and there is evidence that life may have existed there at one time. Of course, the moon must be studied a lot more before we will know for sure.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes books on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist, mineral and fossil specimens, and educational games!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Ready, Set, SCIENCE!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms

What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more

Neptune

Neptune was the name that ancient Romans gave to the Greek god of the sea and earthquakes, Poseidon. He was the brother of Jupiter (Zeus) and of Pluto (Hades). After the defeat of their father Saturn (Cronos),...more

Triton

Triton was discovered by W. Lassell in 1846. Of the 8 moons, it is the 2nd farthest from Neptune, with a standoff distance of 354,800 km. Triton may be one of the largest of the icy moons, is comparable...more

Neptune's Moons and Rings

Neptune has // Call the moon count function defined in the document head print_moon_count('neptune'); moons. As is the case with all of the gas giant planets in our Solar System, it also has a series of...more

An Overview of Neptune's Interior

The Giant planets do not have the same kind of structure inside that the terrestrial planets do. Their evolution was quite different than that of the terrestrial planets, and they have much more gas and...more

The Poles of Neptune and Its Moons

The South Pole of the planet Neptune is unusual in several ways. Triton, Neptune's largest moon, also has interesting features at its poles. Like Earth, Neptune's spin axis (which defines the locations...more

An Overview of Neptune's Atmospheric Composition

The atmosphere of Neptune is very similar to that of Uranus, and unlike that of Saturn and Jupiter. On Jupiter and Saturn, the atmosphere is mostly composed of the simple molecules hydrogen and helium....more

The Origin of an Atmosphere

There are four ideas for the origin of a planetary atmosphere. Those four ideas are: 1. that the planet-elements of which a planet was made decomposed and released the atmosphere, 2. that the atmosphere...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA