A progressive increase in the brightness of the planet Neptune suggests that, like Earth, the distant planet has seasons.
A time series of images of the planet Neptune taken by the Hubble Space Telescope illustrate increasing cloudiness that is a hallmark of seasonal change. The growing bands of clouds in the southern hemisphere of the planet suggest seasonal change. Because the planet takes about 165 years to orbit the sun, the seasons on Neptune last more than 40 years.
Image credit: L. Sromovsky, P.Fry (University of Wisconsin), and NASA
Observations of Neptune made during a six-year period with NASAs Hubble Space Telescope by a group of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) show that the planet is exhibiting a significant increase in brightness. The changes, observed mostly in the planets southern hemisphere, show a distinct increase in the amount and brightness of the banded cloud features that are a distinctive feature of the planet.
"Neptunes cloud bands have been getting wider and brighter," says Lawrence A. Sromovsky, a senior scientist at UW-Madisons Space Science and Engineering Center and a leading authority on Neptunes atmosphere. "This change seems to be a response to seasonal variations in sunlight, like the seasonal changes we see on Earth."
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