seasons for neptune

Neptune may have seasons, say astronomers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, after studying images of the icy, far-off planet taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The images — taken over a six-year period — reveal an increase in the width and brightness of the banded cloud features in the planet’s southern hemisphere. The increased cloud cover is thought to be due to the sun warming the atmosphere. “This change seems to be a response to seasonal variations in sunlight, like the seasonal changes we see on Earth,” Lawrence Sromovsky of the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center stated in a press release. One season on Neptune can last more than 40 years. (It takes Neptune almost 165 years to orbit the sun.) Since the sun is 900 times dimmer on Neptune than on Earth, what’s most remarkable, Sromovsky said, is that Neptune has seasons at all.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 5/27/2003.
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