Astronomers perplexed by plummeting temperatures in Neptune’s atmosphere

An image of Neptune captured by Voyager 2 in 1989. New infrared images of the planet has revealed some surprising temperature changes in its atmosphere over the last two decades. (Image credit: NASA/JPL)

Astronomers have discovered a perplexing trend in Neptune’s atmosphere: Ever since the planet’s southern hemisphere summer began almost two decades ago, atmospheric temperatures in this region have plummeted, and scientists aren’t sure why.

Neptune is the most distant planet in the solar systemaround 30 times farther from the sun than Earth is. Just like every other planet orbiting the sun, Neptune has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. However, because Neptune takes around 165 years to orbit the sun, each of these seasons lasts around 40 years. Neptune’s southern hemisphere has been experiencing summer, the period when it is tilted toward the sun, since 2005.

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