Question Sheet: Strange Neptune


Before reading:

  1. List three facts about the planet Neptune. 

During reading:

  1. Why does the author of this article describe Neptune as a “delinquent


  2. What makes many of Saturn’s moons unusual? 
  3. Describe Triton’s orbit and spin. See Arnett). 
  4. Describe the challenges of sending a spacecraft to Neptune. 
  5. What makes landing on Triton difficult? 
  6. Atkinson says, “We study giant planets to look inside at ourselves and to

    look far away.” What does he mean?

After reading:

  1. How was Neptune discovered? 
  2. What happened to the Voyager 2 spacecraft after it flew by Neptune and

    Triton in 1989? See (NASA) and 

  3. Would you be in favor of funding a mission to Neptune? Why or why not? If

    such a mission were to take place, what do you think its scientific goals should

    be? See

    (David Darling). 

  4. Neptune has rings. How do Neptune’s rings differ from those of Saturn? See

    (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research). 

  5. Why would astronomers have only recently discovered some of Neptune’s moons?


    (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). 

  6. Why are “artist’s illustrations” often used to depict moons of Neptune? See


Who discovered Neptune’s moon Triton? When? Who discovered Nereid? How many moons did the Voyager 2 spacecraft find? How were these moons named? See

(NASA) and

(Smithsonian Institution).


  1. Imagine that it’s 2033 and NASA’s mission to Neptune has reached the planet.

    Write a brief newspaper article describing the spacecraft’s arrival. Use the

    arrival of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn in 2004 as an example of what this

    event might be like. Include facts about Neptune and information about the

    mission’s scientific goals. See

  2. Neptune’s larger moons are named Triton, Proteus, Nereid, Larissa, Galatea,

    Despina, Thalassa, and Naiad. Each of these names refers to a character or type

    of being in Greek mythology. Pick one of these names and find out where it came

    from. Write your own version of this character’s story.


On average, Neptune is 4,500,000,000 kilometers from the sun. Venus is on average only 108,000,000 kilometers from the sun. On average, how many times farther is Neptune from the sun than Venus is?