Scientists studying the temperature of Neptune were recently surprised. They discovered unusual temperature variations on the planet. Scientists did not expect such a dramatic temperature fluctuation, as the planet became cold during its summer season and then warmed up at the South Pole. In a statement, Michael Roman, the study’s lead author, said the change was unexpected. “Because we observed Neptune in the early southern summer, we expect temperatures to be gradually warmer, not colder,” Roman said. These findings surprised researchers. They have yet to come up with an explanation for the phenomena.
The temperature drop can be the result of a number of factors, including chemistry on the planet, weather patterns and changes in the sun. Astronomers who have used several ground-based telescopes to observe Neptune over the past 17 years have seen this beginning decline in the planet’s temperatures.
The study, called Sub-Seasonal Variation in Neptune’s Mid-Infrared Emission, was published in The Planetary Science Journal on April 11.
Like Earth, even Neptune has seasons, but they last much longer. On Neptune, one year is about 165 Earth years, and a season can last about 40 years.
Scientists were keen to understand the seasonal patterns of Neptune. They looked at nearly 100 thermal-infrared images of the planet to track the temperature changes during the summer solstice on the southern part of Neptune.
Through their observations, they could understand that summer had arrived. But the thermal images of Neptune showed that much of the planet had cooled, with temperatures dropping by 14 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) between 2003 and 2018.
However, soon the South Pole suddenly became hot. Between 2018 and 2020, the temperature at the South Pole increased by 11 degrees Celsius. These changes were not expected by scientists studying the planet. The period under study is less than one season. Therefore, scientists had expected more gradual temperature changes.