Washington: For the first time, a University of Arizona planetary scientist has accurately determined Neptune’s rotation by tracking atmospheric features on the planet.
Such finding had not been previously achieved for any of the gas planets in our solar system except Jupiter.
A day on Neptune lasts precisely 15 hours, 57 minutes and 59 seconds, according to the first accurate measurement of its rotational period made by UA scientist Erich Karkoschka.
His result is one of the largest improvements in determining the rotational period of a gas planet in almost 350 years since Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini made the first observations of Jupiter’s Red Spot.
“The rotational period of a planet is one of its fundamental properties,” said Karkoschka, a senior staff scientist at the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
“Neptune has two features observable with the Hubble Space Telescope that seem to track the interior rotation of the planet. Nothing similar has been seen before on any of the four giant planets,” he stated.
The discovery was published in Icarus, the official scientific publication of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.