|the eighth planet from the sun, having eight satellites, the largest being Triton and Nereid, and a faint planar system of rings or ring fragments. Mean distance from sun: 4497 million km; period of revolution around sun: 164.8 years; period of rotation: 14 to 16 hours; diameter and mass: 4.0 and 17.2 times that of earth respectively|
|Neptune (něp'tn') Pronunciation Key
The eighth planet from the Sun and the fourth largest, with a diameter almost four times that of Earth. Neptune is a gas giant with a very active weather system, exhibiting extremely long and powerful storms with the fastest winds observed in the solar system. Neptune's axis is tilted 28.8° from the plane of its orbit, and its summer and winter seasons each last 40 years. For a period of 20 years out of every 248, Pluto's highly elliptical orbit crosses within that of Neptune, making Neptune the farthest planet from the Sun during that period. Neptune has four faint rings and 13 known moons and appears blue due to the absorption of red light by the methane within its atmosphere. See Table at solar system.
In astronomy, a major planet, the eighth planet from the sun. Neptune is named for the Roman god of the sea. Neptune is similar in size and composition to Uranus. It is usually visible only through a telescope and was discovered in the 1840s. For a period ending in 1999, Pluto's orbit took it inside the orbit of neptune. (See solar system; see under “Mythology and Folklore.”)
Note: Some astronomers have suggested that Pluto is not a planet in the usual sense but is an object more like an asteroid, and that Neptune, therefore, is actually the outermost planet.