Researchers have found sudden temperature fluctuations in Neptune they can’t explain. Researchers studied 17 years of data from the planet, collected using telescopes including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Gemini Southern and Northern telescopes. Subaru telescope, Keck telescope.
Neptune has seasons as it orbits and moves around the sun. However, its seasons are much slower than those on Earth, lasting about 40 years.
In the Southern Hemisphere, it has been summer since 2005, so the researchers were surprised by the remarkable contrast in the temperatures they saw.
“Our data covers less than half of Neptune’s season, so no one expected to see big, rapid changes,” co-author Glenn Orton, chief researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.
In a series of observations taken between 2003 and 2018, the planet’s average global temperature fell by eight degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit) and then around the planet’s south pole, temperatures rose rapidly by 11 degrees Celsius (52 degrees Fahrenheit) between 2018 and 2020.
And while Neptune is known to host eddies or turbulent regions in the atmosphere, including one at the planet’s south pole that affect temperatures there, this is not enough to explain how temperatures are rising so quickly.
Global global cooling is weird, too. “This change was unexpected,” said lead author of the study Michael Roman, from the University of Leicester, UK.
Since we were observing Neptune during the early southern summer, we expected temperatures to rise more slowly, not more.” The astronomers are baffled by their findings and have no clear answer as to what might be causing them.
Some of the theories proposed by the European Southern Observatory are that the temperature changes could be due to something going on in the chemistry of the planet’s atmosphere, a weather phenomenon, or perhaps some kind of influence from the sun.
To learn more, astronomers will need to take more readings of Neptune with upcoming powerful telescopes such as the Very Large Telescope or the James Webb Space Telescope.
“I think Neptune is itself very interesting to many of us because we still know so little about it,” Roman says. “All of this points to a more complex picture of Neptune’s atmosphere and how it changes over time.”
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