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Happy anniversary, Neptune!
July 10, 2011 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Tomorrow evening, at roughly 9:50 in the evening GMT, marks the first anniversary (more or less) of the discovery of Neptune.
posted by Dim Siawns (35 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I see what you did there. Very intriguing post! Thanks.
posted by blucevalo at 10:04 AM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was all, like, "bullshit! It is NOT just the first anniversary of that. That has to be a typo!" But then I clicked through and realized that it's not a typo, and that overall it's pretty damn cool.

Neptune is just SO FAR OUT THERE. Saturn only takes ~30 years to complete an orbit. Neptune takes over five times as long to orbit. Saturn is about 9 AUs out, Neptune is about 30 AUs.
posted by hippybear at 10:06 AM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Neptune is just SO FAR OUT THERE.

Light can travel around the earth seven times in a second.

It takes four hours to get to Neptune.
posted by Trurl at 10:13 AM on July 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


From the first link:

Its existence was revealed, not through a serendipitous observation by an astronomer but by the careful work of mathematicians. They calculated that perturbations in the orbit of Uranus, then thought to be the sun's most distant planet, could only be explained by the existence of another, even remoter world whose gravity was affecting Uranus's path.


Damn I loves me some science. Thanks Dim Siawns.
posted by bright cold day at 10:15 AM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Light can travel around the earth seven times in a second.

It takes four hours to get to Neptune.


And *4.2 years* to Alpha Centauri, the nearest of, oh, I don't know, a few sextillion stars in the universe.

Gah.

The human mind was not built to comprehend scales like these.
posted by eugenen at 10:22 AM on July 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


And *4.2 years* to Alpha Centauri

If the Earth was a grain of sand in New York City, Alpha Centauri would be a melon in Los Angeles.
posted by Trurl at 10:27 AM on July 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


The human mind was not built to comprehend scales like these.

When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, "You are here."
posted by hippybear at 10:29 AM on July 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


And it was found by mathematics. I'm good for something!
posted by madcaptenor at 10:34 AM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


madcaptenor: "And it was found by mathematics. I'm good for something"

Why, hello there, mathematics. We've had a rocky relationship in the past, but it's still nice to see you here. How have you been?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:37 AM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


That planet is haunted, I tell you. Just look at what happened to the Event Horizon.
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's actually about 4.37 light years to Alpha Centauri, a binary star. Proxima Centauri is the closest star, at 4.2ly.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:53 AM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


How man Kessel Runs is it between here and Neptune?
posted by ShutterBun at 10:56 AM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


That planet is haunted, I tell you. Just look at what happened to the Event Horizon.

Oh please, that's just Uranian propaganda, they've had it in for Neptune for centuries.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:56 AM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Kessel run is, let's say, twelve parsecs. A parsec is about 200,000 astronomical units, so let's call it 2.4 million AU; Neptune is 30 AU from the Sun (and therefore the Earth) on average. So from here to Neptune is 1/80,000 Kessel runs.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:59 AM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Neat!
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:00 AM on July 10, 2011


This brought back great memories of my favorite undergrad astronomy class... one of the few instances where I didn't sell the book back for beer money.
posted by gatorae at 12:29 PM on July 10, 2011


Bit windy:

...Neptune's weather is characterized by extremely dynamic storm systems, with winds reaching speeds of almost 600 m/s—nearly attaining supersonic flow.[16] More typically, by tracking the motion of persistent clouds, wind speeds have been shown to vary from 20 m/s in the easterly direction to 325 m/s westward.[72] At the cloud tops, the prevailing winds range in speed from 400 m/s along the equator to 250 m/s at the poles.[50]
posted by jamjam at 12:41 PM on July 10, 2011


A parsec is about 200,000 astronomical units,

My favorite distance unit. "Go stand a megaparsec away from that, please" will get you about as far away as the Andromeda Galaxy.

My favorite speed unit is attoparsec per micro-fortnight. Which turns about to be about an inch per second, actually.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:42 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Trurl: "And *4.2 years* to Alpha Centauri

If the Earth was a grain of sand in New York City, Alpha Centauri would be a melon in Los Angeles.
"

"If you took your guts and stretched them end to end, you'd be dead." -- Neil DeGrasse Tyson (sorry - can't find the exact quote he posted)
posted by symbioid at 1:12 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


From Kepler: 30.13 / 164.792 1
posted by Rhomboid at 3:24 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


This comment is lovingly dedicated to each and every person who thought of, but did not make, that joke about mathematicians intently observing the perturbations of Uranus.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:34 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


How far is it to Uranus?
posted by Bonzai at 5:58 PM on July 10, 2011


The bit that I like is that Triton revolves around Neptune in the direction opposite everything else in the solar system. There's a theory that Triton was captured by Neptune's gravity, it having come from outside the solar system. ESA had a mission proposal (now unfunded I believe) to send a probe there to investigate.
posted by newdaddy at 6:25 PM on July 10, 2011


How far is it to Uranus?

Taint far.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 PM on July 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


It was almost discovered 50 years earlier by Jerome Lalande. (Galileo saw it in the 1600s but that wasn't an 'almost'! Herschel's failure in 1830 is harder to explain ... maybe he was too busy playing with photos?)

Always thought it fascinating that it was mathematically predicted before it was discovered. It did for Newton's gravity just what Eddington did for Einstein's spacetime. And, oh, the controversy!
posted by Twang at 7:11 PM on July 10, 2011


Mmmm, chicken neptune....
posted by blue_beetle at 7:50 PM on July 10, 2011


And now let's have a moment's silence for Pluto. Ah, Pluto. We hardly knew ye.
posted by Decani at 8:21 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "How far is it to Uranus?

Taint far
"

Metafilter needs a "booooo" button next to the "favorite" button
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:27 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think NASA and the ESA should partner on a multi-billion dollar protracted survey of the seventh planet, its ring system, and moons. Send probes and orbiting satellites, focus ground based telescopes, whatever. Throw vast resources into the project and just study the fuck out of it until we have the the clearest, most precise and detailed understanding of a stellar body yet - our knowledge of it should be second only in quantity to our knowledge of the Earth.

The first few weeks will be hell, but eventually the flood of terrible jokes (and awesome ones on mefi cuz' ya'll so hilarious!) will become unbearable and then finally we can all grow up a little and call it /ˈjʊərənəs/. Afterwards, young children who make the connection will get a stern and immediate chastising and adults who still persist in making lazy jokes will be shot.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 3:07 AM on July 11, 2011


I think NASA and the ESA should partner on a multi-billion dollar protracted survey of the seventh planet...

I think NASA and the ESA should partner with any and everyone to get a probe around ever planet and its moons, with landers for those with a solid surface. Through a few probes for some asteroids and now we're talking.

And yes, every damn probe should have a kick ass video and still camera on it, which should be made freely available to the public
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:27 AM on July 11, 2011


With all the hoopla surrounding the shuttle launch on Friday, all I could think of was, if they had made this much fuss over every shuttle launch for the past 30 years, we'd probably have a much more active and well-funded space program with a great deal more public support.
posted by hippybear at 4:44 AM on July 11, 2011


The bit that I like is that Triton revolves around Neptune in the direction opposite everything else in the solar system.

Well, not everything else, since Jupiter and Saturn both have moons with retrograde orbits (which are also likely to have formed elsewhere in the solar system and been captured later), though I think Triton may be the only major moon (i.e. not irregularly shaped like an asteroid) to do so.

But if that blows your mind, you know that Uranus orbits essentially on its side, right? Something really strange must have happened there in the last few billion years (whatever that was must also have done something to Uranus' core, since -- unlike the other gas-giant planets -- Uranus does not emit a lot more heat than it received from the sun).
posted by aught at 5:49 AM on July 11, 2011


Uranus does not emit a lot more heat than it received from the sun).
Something about internal density gradients impeding convection, I read? I have to say, I have a hard time buying that. Its denser than the gas giants, presumably made at around the same time and from the same stuff, roughly. So I'd expect internal heat sources (radiological) to be present in a relation to its mass and density, and similar to the other large planets in our system. But I'm not an astrophysicist. So ok, maybe it does blow my mind, a little bit.
posted by newdaddy at 8:36 AM on July 11, 2011


And yes, every damn probe should have a kick ass video and still camera on it, which should be made freely available to the public

Also, every probe should have a speaker on it, and NASA should get funding from the 900 number that, for $3.99 / minute, lets you call and TELL NEPTUNE WHAT YOU REALLY THINK!
posted by straight at 11:21 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


No need, Neptune knows exactly what I think of it. Fucking hipster planet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:28 AM on July 11, 2011


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