Hubble Space Telescope Captures Birth of Massive Storm on Neptune

first_imgStay on target Hubble Captures Saturn’s ‘Phonograph Record’ Ring SystemHubble Captures Gorgeous Star’s Final Stages of Life Images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope show the formation of a “great dark spot” on Neptune for the first time, reported scientists in a new study.The study, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, observed the Hubble Space Telescope’s photos of Neptune taken over the past several years and recorded the growth of a new huge dark spot that became visible in 2018. By analyzing companion clouds that appeared two years before the new great dark spot, the team discovered that, “dark spots originate much deeper in Neptune’s atmosphere than previously thought,” said an American Geophysical Union press release..@NASAHubble, what’s the weather… on Neptune? A storm tracking team at @NASAGoddard analyzes telescope data to observe the formation and paths of weather systems on the icy planet. What’s next? Studying the storms’ vortex and wind speed:— NASA (@NASA) March 25, 2019Neptune’s great dark spots are known as storms that form from high atmospheric pressure areas, unlike Earth, where storms typically form around low pressure areas. Scientists have spotted a total of six dark spots on Neptune over the past 30 years: In 1989, the Voyager 2 noticed two storms and since the Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990, it has viewed four more of these dark storms on the icy planet.When NASA’s Voyager 2 probe flew past Neptune in 1989, it took pictures of two large storms brewing on the planet’s southern hemisphere and scientists called these storms “The Great Dark Spot” and “Dark Spot 2.” In 1994, the Hubble Space Telescope snapped sharper pictures of Neptune that showed the disappearance of “The Great Dark Spot” and “Dark Spot 2.”This bulls-eye view of Neptune’s small dark spot D2 was obtained by NASA’s Voyager 2 narrow-angle camera on August 24, 1989. (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL)Then, in 2018, a new great dark spot showed up on Neptune, and it was similar in size and shape to the one the Voyager 2 witnessed in 1989. Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and her team were busy tracking another small dark spot that appeared in 2015 and were shocked when the 2018 great dark spot appeared on the blue planet.Neptune’s bright, cirrus-like clouds change rapidly. (Photo Credit: NASA/JPL)Interestingly enough, the team spotted small white clouds in the region where the 2018 great dark spot would later become visible. According to the study, these high-altitude clouds contain methane ice crystals, which give them their bright white hue. Scientists believe that these methane clouds accompany the storms that cause dark spots.Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope images, the scientists were able to also determine the lifespan of dark spots on Neptune. Simon and the study’s co-authors, Andrew Hsu and Michael Wong at the University of California Berkeley, monitored the methane clouds from 2016 to 2018. They discovered that the clouds were the most bright in 2016 and 2017, before the new great dark spot became visible in 2018.Computer models of the icy planet’s atmosphere have demonstrated that the deeper the storm, the brighter its companion clouds will be. Since these white clouds appeared two years before the 2018 great dark spot and they became less bright when it became visible, the study’s research shows that some dark spots might originate deeper in Neptune’s atmosphere.With these findings, scientists might have new insights on ice giant planets, such as Neptune, and how companion clouds might play a role in stormy conditions.More on Space Telescope Snaps Dazzling View of Two Colliding GalaxiesHubble Space Telescope Observes Weather on Neptune and UranusHubble Space Telescope Spots ‘Living Fossil’ Galaxy Outside of Milky Waylast_img

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