Massive storm on Neptune is mysteriously shrinking, but why?


Observations show how Neptune's dark vortex is slowly fading into oblivion.

And it probably stinks: "The dark spot material may be hydrogen sulfide, with the pungent smell of rotten eggs". Since then, Hubble has given us a better look at the mysterious storms that appear and vanish.

As the below video from NASA explains, there have been several storms on Neptune in the years since Voyager 2 first chartered the planet in the 1980s. They appear and disappear and have only been captured a few times, thanks to Hubble and its unique ability to see these features in UV light. Some storms on other planets can last for a long time, such as the centuries-old Great Red Spot of Jupiter, but the storms of Neptune have relatively shorter lives. Scientists found out that the dark vortex is shrinking rapidly and is following a different path unlike other vortices traced on Neptune. It's only since the Hubble telescope began regularly photographing all planets in the solar system that we gained enough data to be able to track storms on Neptune. Previous simulations suggested that as the storms of Neptune spin in an anticyclonic direction Neptune's wind shear would probably drift this particular dying vortex toward the equator. According to their predictions, the anticyclone would move toward Neptune's equator and would break apart, which would 'perhaps create a spectacular outburst of cloud activity, ' researcher Michael H. Wong was quoted in the NASA statement.

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NASA emphasized how useful the look at the storm from the Hubble is for scientists.

Agustín Sánchez-Lavega from the University of the Basque Country said that they have no evidence how these vortices are formed or how fast they rotate. The clouds in the dark spot are still highly reflective, but slightly darker than the particles in the surrounding atmosphere.

Astronomers theorise that the vortices arise from an instability caused by the sheared eastward and westward winds, and they have created models to predict the movement of SDS-2015. The storm is carried along by three wind jets that circle the planet. The most recent one was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2015.

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The researchers hope to further study storms on Neptune.

The dark spot was first seen on the planet at mid-southern latitudes.

'The vortex should be free to change traffic lanes and cruise anywhere in between the jets'. Several years later, the Hubble Space Telescope started monitoring the weather conditions on the planet and arrived at some fascinating findings, which could provide the groundwork for more profound climate studies in space.

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