Space Oddity: Kepler spots Neptune busting a groove (video)

15 May 2015

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft just took a voyeur seat, far from its victim, as it creepily filmed Neptune waltzing around space. No audio is included, but it’s almost certainly dancing to Amerie’s 2005 hit ‘1 Thing’.

As NASA itself puts it, Kepler is “known for its planet-hunting prowess of other stars”, with its latest mission monitoring Neptune and it’s two moons, Triton and Nereid.

So for over two months (70 days between last November and January, to be precise) it took photos of the unaware planet, combining all into a wondrous little video.

After an almost stage-managed delay, Neptune enters the stage two weeks in, spins along with Triton orbiting it, reaching the right-hand-side of shot before an optical illusion makes it look like it moonwalks back from whence it came.

What actually happens is the changing position of the Kepler spacecraft as it orbits around the sun makes it appear that Neptune hits reverse.

Appearing from the left at day 24, keen-eyed observers can also spot the tiny moon Nereid, which is much further from Neptune then Triton.

The bright streak of light stretching above and below Neptune is actually its atmosphere, reflecting sunlight that “floods” a number of pixels of the camera.

Some minor details: Triton orbits Neptune every 5.8 days, Neneid every 360. Also, if you look at distant objects and move your head back and forth, NASA says you’ll notice objects close to you will also appear to move back and forth, relative to objects far away. “The same concept is producing the apparent motion of Neptune.”

Space dance image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic