A mysterious dark storm on Neptune has been turned upside down by astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which they say has never been seen before.
The storm, which is wider than the Atlantic Ocean, has been spreading in the northern hemisphere of the gas giant since at least 2018 and is slowly flowing into the equatorial region of the planet where such storms are expected to become extinct.
But instead of heading towards his death and to the surprise of observers, the vortex suddenly changed direction by August 2020 and doubled to the north.
Hubble, for the first time, the only telescope to track these elusive features of sharpness and sensitivity in the illuminated spectrum, has never seen such an atmospheric behavior.
Adding to the mystery, Hubble discovered another small dark spot in January of this year that came close to a larger storm. Scientists suspect it was probably part of a giant vortex that broke and disappeared before disappearing.
Dr. Michael Wang of the University of California, Berkeley said, “We are pleased with these observations because this little dark piece is probably part of the process of excluding dark spaces,” said Dr. Michael Wang of the University of California, Berkeley.
“It’s a process that has never been observed. We’ve seen some other dark spots disappear, and they’re gone, but we’ve never seen anything go awry, despite the predictions of computer simulations,” Dr Wang added.
The massive storm spanned 4,600 miles (7,400 kilometers) – more than the distance from London to Miami – and since 1993 Hubble has noticed only the fourth darkest spot on Neptune.
Two more storms were discovered by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989, but Hubble disappeared while orbiting to observe them.
“How these storms take shape is still a mystery, but this latest giant dark vortex has been the best studied so far,” NASA said.
“The dark appearance of the storm may be due to an advanced dark cloud layer and it is telling astronomers about the vertical structure of the storm.
“Another unusual feature of the dark space is the absence of bright companion clouds around it, which was present in the Hubble images taken when the vortex was discovered in 2018,” NASA added.
“Obviously, the clouds disappear when the vortex stops traveling south. When the bright clouds rotate the air flow and move upwards above the vortex, the gases settle into methane ice crystals causing
“Lack of clouds can reveal information about how spots develop,” the researchers added.