Surprising and unexpected temperature changes on Neptune

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of astronomers used ground-based observatories, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, to monitor Neptune’s atmospheric temperatures over a 17-year period.

They found an unexpected decrease in global temperatures on the planet, followed by a noticeable warming in the area around the south pole.

“These changes were unexpected,” says Michael Roman, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, and lead author of the new paper. “Since we are observing Neptune at a time when summer begins on its surface, we expected to see an increase in temperatures, not a fall.”

Just like the Earth, Neptune is characterized by a change of seasons, depending on the period of the planet’s revolution around the Sun.

However, one season on Neptune lasts for 40 years, while the duration of the Neptunian year is 165 Earth years. Since 2005, astronomers have recorded summer in the southern hemisphere of the planet.

To analyze the dynamics of temperature changes on the planet, astronomers studied almost 100 infrared images of Neptune over a period of more than 17 years and, to their surprise, found an anomalous trend.

Despite the onset of summer in Neptune’s southern hemisphere, much of the planet has slowly cooled over the past two decades.

The average global temperature on the planet dropped by 8 degrees Celsius between 2003 and 2018. Equally astonishing was the unexpected increase in temperature around the planet’s south pole by 11 degrees Celsius between 2018 and 2020.

Such a sharp the increase in temperature on the planet in the polar regions has never been observed before, the authors note.

While astronomers are unable to explain the trends they observe, they suggest that they may be due to changes in the chemical composition of Neptune’s stratosphere or random weather cycles, or even the solar activity cycle.

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