New NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of the distant planet Neptuneshow a dynamic atmosphere and capture the fleeting orbits of itssatellites. The images have been assembled into a time-lapse movierevealing the orbital motion of the satellites.
Images were taken in 14 different colored filters probing variousaltitudes in Neptune's deep atmosphere so that scientists can study thehaze and clouds in detail.
These are several snapshots from the Neptune movie.
The natural-color view of Neptune (to left), common to naked eyetelescopic views by amateur astronomers, reveals a cyan colored planet.Methane gas in Neptune's atmosphere absorbs most of the red sunlighthitting the planet, making it look blue-green. The image was created bycombining images in red, green, and blue light.
Neptune's subtle features are more visible in the enhanced-colorview (top right). Images taken in special methane filters show detailsnot visible to the human eye (bottom right). The features seen in thisenhanced image must be above most of the sunlight-absorbing methane tobe detectable through these special filters.
The planet is so dark at the methane wavelengths that long exposurescan be taken, revealing some of Neptune's smaller moons. Clockwise fromthe top (in composite image at left), these moons are Proteus (thebrightest), Larissa, Despina, and Galatea. Neptune had 13 moons at lastcount.
Neptune is the most distant giant planet in our Solar System,orbiting the Sun every 165 years. It is so large tht nearly 60 Earthscould fit inside it. A day on Neptune is between 14 hours and 19 hours.The inner two thirds of Neptune is composed of a mixture of moltenrock, water, liquid ammonia and methane. The outer third is a mixtureof heated gases comprised of hydrogen, helium, water and methane.
On April 29 and 30, 2005, Hubble images were taken every 4-5 hours,spaced at about a quarter of Neptune's rotational period. These wherecombined to create a time-lapse movie of the dynamic planet.
Electronic images and additional information are available at: http://hubblesite.org/news/22
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