Astronomers confused about plunging temperatures in Neptune’s atmosphere

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

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

Neptune is the most distant planet in solar systemabout 30 times further away from sun than the earth is. Like all other planets orbiting the sun, Neptune has four different seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. But because Neptune takes about 165 years to orbit the sun, each of these seasons lasts about 40 years. Neptune’s southern hemisphere has experienced summer since 2005, the period when it leans towards the sun.

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