Why is Neptune called Neptune?

The simple answer is because of its colour. And there are many fascinating stories about Neptune and how it was discovered.

Our solar system has existed for millions of years but once humans populated the Earth, it took us thousands and thousands of years to discover other planets such as Neptune.

At first this was because humans had no knowledge of science and the planets like Earth which travel around the Sun. And of course, early humans didn’t have scientific tools like binoculars and telescopes.

Who Discovered Neptune?

The first person to discover Neptune was a man called Galileo who lived in Italy. In 1613 he discovered Neptune by accident. Galileo was one of the first people to study the sky at night using a telescope. And it got him into big trouble.

He was looking at Jupiter and saw what he thought was a bright star. In fact it was Neptune. Galileo thought the star [which was really Neptune the planet] reminded him of the ocean because of its rich blue colour.

In the stories of ancient Rome, Neptune was the god of the sea. So Neptune was blue like the ocean and the god of the ocean was Neptune.

Neptune is Big and Far Away

Neptune is a huge planet and is called one of the giant gas planets. It’s also a very long way from the Sun. Being so far from the Sun, means Neptune takes a very long time to travel on its journey around the Sun and Neptune is very cold.

With binoculars or better still with a telescope, we can sometimes see Neptune but it is a very long way away.

Trouble for the Neptune Scientists

Galileo wrote down his discoveries about the planets and in Italy the Roman Catholic Church said Galileo was wrong. But Galileo was correct and the Church was wrong. It wasn’t until 1992 that the Church admitted Galileo was correct.

Then in 1846 an Englishman [Adams] and a Frenchman [Le Verrier] both discovered Neptune. Unlike Galileo, these men knew that Neptune was a planet. But their countries [Britain and France] got into a fight about which country first discovered Neptune.

The scientists didn’t fight, only the politicians in their countries.

Who Has Been to Neptune?

No humans because it is so far away. But in 1989 Voyager 2, an unmanned spaceship, went to Neptune and sent back lots of important information. The Hubble Space Telescope is super powerful and it can allow scientists and astronomers to see things on faraway planets like Neptune.



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