|Rotation period||16 h 6 min 36 s|
|Class||Neptunian gas giant|
|Behind the Scenes|
Neptune is similar in composition to Uranus, and both have compositions which differ from those of the larger gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. Neptune's atmosphere, while similar to Jupiter's and Saturn's in that it is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, along with traces of hydrocarbons and possibly nitrogen, contains a higher proportion of "ices" such as water, ammonia and methane. Astronomers sometimes categorize Uranus and Neptune as "ice giants" in order to emphasize these distinctions. The interior of Neptune, like that of Uranus, is primarily composed of ices and rocks. Traces of methane in the outermost regions in part account for the planet's blue appearance.
In contrast to the relatively featureless atmosphere of Uranus, Neptune's atmosphere is notable for its active and visible weather patterns. For example, at the time of the 1989 Voyager 2 flyby, the planet's southern hemisphere possessed a Great Dark Spot comparable to the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. These weather patterns are driven by the strongest sustained winds of any planet in the Solar System, with recorded wind speeds as high as 2,100 km/h. Because of its great distance from the Sun, Neptune's outer atmosphere is one of the coldest places in the Solar System, with temperatures at its cloud tops approaching −218 °C (55 K). Temperatures at the planet's centre are approximately 5,400 K (5,000 °C). Neptune has a faint and fragmented ring system, which may have been detected during the 1960s but was only indisputably confirmed in 1989 by Voyager 2.