Sloane Wiktorowicz and Andrew Ingersoll on future Neptune seas

It’s possible that, in the future the planet Neptune might have its own ocean. Two astronomers at the California Institute of Technology studied this possibility.

Much of Neptune’s interior is made of water, but high pressures keep most of this water as solid ice. Astronomers Sloane Wiktorowicz and Andrew Ingersoll investigated whether an ocean layer might exist inside Neptune’s thick atmosphere. They calculated how much water there might be at different depths in the atmosphere.

According to their calculations, there’s no ocean on Neptune today, no place in Neptune’s atmosphere for water to accumulate. But, they said, an ocean might be in Neptune’s future. According to astronomers, our sun will become a faint white dwarf star some 8 billion years from now. Then Neptune will cool, possibly causing rain to fall from Neptune’s clouds. The rain might create a water layer, or ocean, up in Neptune’s thick atmosphere.

Neptune wasn’t known until the year 1846. The planet’s blue-green color might have helped inspire the name Neptune, for the god of the sea. Now the possibility exists for Neptune to have an ocean of its own … someday.

Our thanks to Research Corporation, a foundation for the advancement of science.

Our thanks to:
Sloane Wiktorowicz
Andrew Ingersoll

April 30, 2007

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