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NEPTUNE’S DARK STORM SPINS OFFSHOOT

16 Dec 2020, 16:41 UTC
NEPTUNE’S DARK STORM SPINS OFFSHOOT
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Way back in 1989, we got our first good look at the planet Neptune when the Voyager 2 spacecraft did a quick reconnaissance flyby. Far from being a bland world like sister ice giant Uranus, Neptune was a bit more interesting. For one thing, it showed some interesting features called “dark spots” which turned out to be Neptune’s dark storms. There were other features in the upper atmosphere, but the Dark Spot and Dark Spot 2 really grabbed people’s attention. A few years later, Hubble Space Telescope took its first peek at the planet. By then, the storms had disappeared.

What happened? That’s a question planetary scientists have focused on ever since the flyby. And, since that time, several other similar types of features have come and gone in the Neptunian atmosphere. Hubble has been tracking those storms through a project called the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program, in an effort to give more insight into these features.

These days there’s a relatively new storm in Neptune town, and it’s been around since at least 2018. That’s when Hubble took another look and found it. It was high in the northern hemisphere, and typical of such storms, it ...

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