The Hubble Space Telescope has just captured a raging storm of hydrogen sulfide on the planet Neptune which is so immense that it stretches for a total of approximately 6,800 miles. To give an indication of just how very large this is, if such a storm were ever unleashed here on Earth, it would devour 20 percent of the planet and reach from New York City all the way to South America.
As Business Insider reports, while the Hubble was busy scanning the outer region of the solar system, the telescope managed to pick up a frighteningly large “dark vortex” that was forming within the clouds of Neptune.
The huge storm currently enveloping Neptune was officially announced on Thursday by both NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), who are a special group that decides which objects the Hubble Space Telescope should be studying after choosing from a number of submissions that scientists send in from all over the world.
At the moment, the storm on Neptune is only raging in the planet’s northern hemisphere very close to what has been called “companion” clouds.
It has been suggested that these eerily white companion clouds to the storm may have formed after the storm rushed in and pushed the companion ones upward, later causing them to freeze. It is furthermore believed that these bright and frozen clouds are most likely made of methane, according to the STScI.
“These clouds are similar to clouds that appear as pancake-shaped features when air is pushed over mountains on Earth (though Neptune has no solid surface).”
During its routine yearly monitoring of the weather on our solar system's outer planets, Hubble uncovered a new mysterious dark storm on Neptune and provided a fresh look at a long-lived storm circling around the north polar region on Uranus: https://t.co/ErZTfFwZfF pic.twitter.com/NzHhhxOK8n— Hubble (@NASAHubble) February 7, 2019
With the new discovery of the raging tempest upon Neptune, this is now the sixth such storm that scientists have tracked on the planet. And while even the worst of storms on Earth usually only last days or weeks at the very most, the dark vortex of clouds on Neptune is set to stick around for quite a while now and will most likely be there for many years.
This is not at all unusual on other planets when considering that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has engulfed the planet for a minimum of 400 years, although its grip is technically lessening as the storm slowly shrinks over time.
It should also be noted that Neptune has a long and illustrious history of dark storms, with NASA’s Voyager 2 capturing the first set of these back in 1989, in what so far has been the only time that a spacecraft has flown by the planet.
The Hubble Space Telescope has helped scientists capture four more of these dark storms on Neptune and with the current one set to last for many years, there will certainly be plenty of time for us to observe it.