Neptune is the outermost planet of the gas giants. It has an equatorial diameter of 49,500 kilometers (30,760 miles). If Neptune were hollow, it could contain nearly 60 Earths. Neptune orbits the Sun every 165 years. It has eight moons, six of which were found by Voyager. A day on Neptune is 16 hours and 6.7 minutes. Neptune was discovered on September 23, 1846 by Johann Gottfried Galle, of the Berlin Observatory, and Louis d'Arrest, an astronomy student, through mathematical predictions made by Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier. The first two thirds of Neptune is composed of a mixture of molten rock, water, liquid ammonia and methane. The outer third is a mixture of heated gases comprised of hydrogen, helium, water and methane. Methane gives Neptune its blue cloud color.
Although Pluto was discovered in 1930, limited information on the distant object delayed a realistic understanding of its characteristics. Pluto is the second largest known dwarf planet and tenth largest orbiting the Sun. From its time of discovery in 1930 to 2006 it was considered to be the ninth planet in the solar system, but because additional objects have been discovered including Eris which is 27% more massive, the IAU reclassified Pluto and the other objects as dwarf planets. The New Horizons spacecraft was launched on January 16, 2006 and will make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 1015. This mission will provide an increased amount of information about this peculiar dwarf planet. The uniqueness of Pluto's orbit, rotational relationship with its satellite, spin axis, and light variations all give it
a certain appeal. Pluto is usually farther from the Sun than any of the eight planets; however, due to the eccentricity of its orbit, it is closer than Neptune for 20 years out of its 249 year orbit. Pluto crossed Neptune's orbit January 21, 1979, made its closest approach September 5, 1989, and remained within the orbit of Neptune until February 11, 1999. This will not occur again until September 2226.