Neptunes weather studied by Leicester scientist

Dr Sarah Casewell (pictured) of the Department of Physics and Astronomy has been involved in a study to examine the weather on Neptune.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft, operating as the K2 mission, has imaged Neptune and two of its moons - Triton and Nereid - in a video which illustrates 70 days of uninterrupted observation making this one of the longest continuous observations of a solar system object ever obtained.

While NASA’s Kepler spacecraft is known for its discoveries of planets around other stars, an international team of astronomers, including Dr Casewell, plans to use these data to track Neptune’s weather and probe the planet’s internal structure by studying subtle brightness fluctuations that can only be observed with K2.

Neptune appears on day 15 of the video but does not travel alone in the video. The small faint object closely orbiting is its large moon Triton, which circles Neptune every 5.8 days. Appearing at day 24, keen-eyed observers can also spot the tiny moon Nereid in its slow 360-day orbit around the planet. A few quick-moving asteroids also make cameo appearances in the movie, showing up as streaks across the K2 field of view. The red dots are stars outside the solar system.


The film is based on 101,580 images taken from December 2014 through January 2015 during K2's Campaign 3, reveals the perpetual clockwork of our solar system. The 70-day timespan is compressed into 34 seconds with the number of days noted in the top right corner.