An equatorial storm on Neptune has caught astronomers' eyes.
Astronomers studying Neptune have been following a large storm on the ice giant unlike any seen in the past.
Neptune recorded at several infrared wavelengths. N. Molter / I. De Pater (Univ. of California, Berkeley) / C. Alvarez (W. Keck Observatory)
Using one of the Keck Observatory's 10-meter adaptive-optics-equipped telescopes, Imke de Pater and graduate student Ned Molter (both at University of California, Berkeley) spotted a bright storm complex spanning at least 30° in both latitude and longitude centered near the planet's equator. The storm brightened between observations taken on June 26th and July 2nd.
The storm was initially thought to be the same Northern Cloud Complex first seen by the Hubble Space telescope in 1994, after the Great Dark Spot imaged by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in its 1989 flyby had disappeared. But measurements of this storm's location show it to be something completely different.
A large, high-pressure vortex system deep within Neptune’s atmosphere is thought to drive the white storm clouds. As methane gases rise up in the vortex, they cool below the condensation temperature, forming clouds in the same way that water vapor does on Earth.
The location ...