Neptune was the first planet found by mathematical prediction rather than by empirical observation. Unexpected changes in the orbit of Uranus ledAlexis Bouvard to deduce that its orbit was subject to gravitational perturbation by an unknown planet. Neptune was subsequently observed on 23 September 1846 by Johann Galle within a degree of the position predicted by Urbain Le Verrier, and its largest moon, Triton, was discovered shortly thereafter, though none of the planet's remaining 12 moons were located telescopically until the 20th century. Neptune has been visited by only one spacecraft, Voyager 2, which flew by the planet on 25 August 1989.
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 ofhydrocarbons and possibly nitrogen, contains a higher proportion of "ices" such as water, ammonia and methane. Astronomers sometimes categorise Uranus and Neptune as "ice giants" in order to emphasise these distinctions. The interior of Neptune, like that of Uranus, is primarily composed of ices and rock. 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... [continues]
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