Neptune’s moons: top facts about these very strange worlds at the edge of the solar system

In total, Neptune has 14 moons, the last of which was discovered only 9 years ago.

Neptune, the eighth and farthest planet in the solar system, has 14 known moons to date. Space writes that all of its moons are also named after various sea gods and nymphs associated with the sea, considering that the planet was named after the sea god from ancient Roman mythology.

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About half of Neptune’s moons were discovered by astronomers decades after the Voyager 2 spacecraft passed by the ice giant. But the first 2 moons of the planet were discovered long before that.

Neptune’s first and largest moonTriton was discovered by astronomer William Lassell in 1846 using a ground-based telescope, just 17 days after the discovery of Neptune. The second moon discovered around the planet was Nereid, discovered in 1979 by Gerard Kuiper, again using a ground-based telescope.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft passed by Neptune in 1989 and discovered 6 moons of this planet.

  • Technically, a 97 km diameter satellite named Larissa was discovered by astronomers in 1981, but this discovery was only confirmed with the help of Voyager 2. It is an asteroid-like body with cratered surfaces. The Moon’s orbit is slowly approaching Neptune, and scientists believe that if the planet were torn apart by gravity, it would either crash into the planet’s atmosphere or form a ring.
  • The same crater-covered moon is Proteus, 420 km in diameter and not completely regular in shape.
  • Naiad, another small moon of Neptune that looks a bit like a potato, is probably a combination of parts from several moons of the planet.
  • Thalassa is probably similar in composition to Naiad, but this moon is disc-shaped despite its small size. Both moons have orbits that will eventually land them on Neptune.
  • Also, Voyager 2 discovered Galatea, which can have a gravitational effect on Neptune’s rings, and Despina, which is located inside the planet’s rings.

Only in the early 2000s, astronomers were able to discover 5 more of Neptune’s moons using ground-based and space telescopes.

  • In 2002, the opening of four was immediately announced: Galimeda, Sao and Laomedei and Neso. These satellites are so small and so far away that little is known about them other than their orbits. They were most likely formed as a result of collisions with nearby asteroids.
  • Just a year later, astronomers discovered Neptune’s 13th moon, called Psamatha. The orbits of Neso and this satellite are somewhat similar, but other than that, little is known about them.

The last known satellite to date was the 14th satellite in a row, the Hippocampus.. This is a very small satellite with a diameter of only 34 km.

List of all the moons of Neptune in alphabetical order

  • Galatea is a small irregular moon discovered in 1989.
  • Galimede is a small moon about which almost nothing is known, except that it orbits Neptune in the opposite direction of the planet’s rotation. It opened in 2002.
  • The hippocampus is a 34 km diameter satellite discovered in 2013 and is today Neptune’s smallest moon.
  • Despina is a small irregular moon in Neptune’s ring system. It opened in 1989.
  • Laomedea is a small irregular moon orbiting Neptune in a distant, eccentric orbit. It opened in 2002.
  • Larissa, a satellite officially discovered in 1989, has a circular orbit approaching Neptune.
  • Naiad is a moon similar to Larissa and likely to strike Neptune in the future. It opened in 1989.
  • Nereid is one of Neptune’s most distant and largest moons. It has the most eccentric orbit of any moon in the solar system. It opened in 1949.
  • Neso – Scientists know very little about Neptune’s distant, irregularly shaped moon. It opened in 2002.
  • Proteus is one of Neptune’s largest moons and one of the darkest objects in the solar system, reflecting very little sunlight. It opened in 1989.
  • Psamatha – This small satellite has one of the furthest orbits of any moon in the solar system. It takes almost 26 Earth years to make a complete revolution around Neptune. It opened in 2003.
  • Sao is about 100 million times fainter than what can be seen with the naked eye. It opened in 2002.
  • Thalassa is an unusual disk-shaped moon. It opened in 1989.
  • Triton is Neptune’s largest moon and the only large moon in the solar system that rotates the planet in the opposite direction of its rotation. Scientists believe Triton was an object in the Kuiper belt that was pulled by Neptune’s gravity millions of years ago. It opened in 1846.

Focus Webb has already written that the space telescope shows what Neptune’s rings look like.

About what features Neptune has, Focus already written in detail.

Source: Focus

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