Newly discovered mysterious dark storm on Neptune arouses curiosity

Rodiano Bonacci
Febbraio 10, 2019

Near the dark storm now on Neptune, Hubble spotted another atmospheric feature: sparkling white "companion clouds", which scientists have spotted around dark storms in the past. Additionally, both planets are considered as the Ice Giants: They have mantles of hydrogen and helium that surround a water-rich interior. Hubble, which captured these pictures during its routine checkup of the two planets, detected a mysterious dark storm on Neptune and a storm circling Uranus' north polar region.

NASA plans to continue monitoring weather on these frigid, far-off gas giants to better understand the extraterrestrial storms. This leaves the sun shining non-stop onto its north pole during its long summer, likely resulting in widespread atmospheric changes.

Studying evolving weather systems on planets 2.7 billion and 1.6 billion miles away (respectively, at their closest) is bewildering to say the least.

This latest vortex was photographed by Hubble in September 2018 during a scan of Neptune's northern hemisphere. The band circles the planet just north of the equator and it remains a mystery for scientists just how bands like these form on Uranus and Neptune since both planets have dominant jets of westward blowing wind that are generally very broad.

"Back in 2007, there didn't appear to be anything like this polar cap over the springtime pole". But as time progressed, a reflective band-whitish against Uranus' blue hues-began to appear encircling the north pole. The exact causes of these aerosol changes, he said, remain a mystery, with possibilities including warming temperatures, unusual chemistry, some large-scale atmospheric circulation pattern, or a combination of all these. Accordingly, it's trickier to estimate precisely how a mysterious dark vortex like the one recently observed forms.

While observing the outer edge of the solar system, scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered something that puzzled them.

Other similar storms have been seen on Neptune before.

Looking at the new Neptune image, it appears that a dark vortex has once again reared its ugly - yet fascinating - head. The telescope picked up a large dark vortex on Neptune.

This is the fourth storm of this kind and intensity discovered on Neptune, and scientists say there are many reasons such storms are different from those which occur on our planet.

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) announced the discovery of the storm on Thursday. Now experiencing summer in its southern hemisphere, a dark, stormy spot can be seen in its northern hemisphere that NASA says is about 6,800 miles across-about 2.5 times the width of the continental United States. "This is also the first time we could see the region before a storm of that size formed, so that will help us in modelling the formation process". We now await next year's OPAL observations with much anticipation.

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