For the first time, the Hubble Space Telescope has been able to capture stunning images of the massive storm swirling on Neptune which is part of the planet’s Great Dark Spot.
As Phys.org reports, while most people are aware that Jupiter has a storm called the Great Red Spot, which is believed to have been raging for 350 years, Neptune also has its own Great Dark Spot, which is filled with storms that are created around high atmospheric pressure which builds up on the planet.
By way of comparison, storms on Earth are quite different from those found on Neptune, and are formed near areas of low pressure rather than high.
Scientists have now identified six different dark spots on Neptune, with NASA’s Voyager 2 probe discovering two of these when conducting observations of the planet in 1989. However, with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, four other dark spots have now been discovered on Neptune.
In their new research, scientists examined the new and extremely large Great Dark Spot which was first observed in 2018, and after analyzing other storms close to it, learned that the storms of the planet’s Great Dark Spot began their life in much deeper regions of the planet’s atmosphere, which was contrary to what was initially thought.
— Phys.org (@physorg_com) March 25, 2019
The Hubble Space Telescope has also allowed scientists to learn just how frequently dark spots appear on Neptune as well as how long they are expected to remain there. Scientists believe that this knowledge will help them greatly in their study of exoplanets which are also roughly the same size as Neptune, according Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
“If you study the exoplanets and you want to understand how they work, you really need to understand our planets first. We have so little information on Uranus and Neptune.”
Scientists first witnessed two Great Dark Spots on Neptune after NASA’s Voyager 2 probe captured images of these magnificent storms in 1989, yet in 1994 these spots appeared to have vanished after the Hubble Space Telescope showed images without either one of these two spots. However, after another Great Dark Spot became visible once again last year, scientists began to study it in earnest.
Scientists are now keen to learn more about the wind speeds which accompany the storms within Neptune’s dark spots, and Michael Wong at the University of California Berkeley explained, “We have never directly measured winds within Neptune’s dark vortices, but we estimate the wind speeds are in the ballpark of 328 feet (100 meters) per second, quite similar to wind speeds within Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.”
The new study which has examined the storms of Neptune’s Great Dark Spot has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.