Last Updated on June 16, 2021
Whether you’re trying to spot Neptune in the sky or are curious about how far the outer planets really are, you’ve come to the right place.
We break down everything that you need to know and do our best to give you a few comparisons that will help you comprehend the vast distances of our solar system.
Like all planets in the Solar System, Neptune has an elliptical orbit. What that means is that at some points throughout its orbit, it’s closer to the Sun than at others.
So, while the average distance from Neptune to the Sun is 2.79 billion miles, that’s not the farthest the planet can go. That point is 2.83 billion miles away when it’s at aphelion. At perihelion, when it’s closest to the Sun, that number shrinks to 2.77 billion miles.
While that’s not a huge change when we’re talking about distances that big, it’s still a 60-million-mile difference.
For comparison, Earth averages about 93 million miles from the Sun, which means that Neptune is about 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth!
While light travels fast, it’s not instantaneous. In fact, at Neptune’s average distance from the Sun, it takes 4 hours and 10 minutes for the light to reach Neptune!
When Neptune is at aphelion, that time grows to 4 hours and 13.5 minutes, and when the planet is at perihelion, that number shrinks to 4 hours and 8 minutes. For reference, it takes light roughly 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach Earth.
With such large distances in space, it’s no wonder that Neptune is so cold. But keep in mind that while Neptune is about 30 AU from the Sun, the next closest star is over 271,937 AUs away.
Needless to say, space is vast, but that doesn’t mean you should stop asking questions. So, keep stargazing, and the next time that you have a question that you just can’t answer, come check us out!
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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