NASA Scientists Report Strange 'Dark Vortex' In Neptune's Atmosphere

Uranus is extremely pretty and has a fetching cloud of gas surrounding its northern tip

The telescope regularly checks in on the two outer planets to see what's happening in their atmospheres, and last autumn, Hubble captured incredible images of clouds on both worlds. Hubble, which captured these pictures during its routine checkup of the two planets, detected a mysterious dark storm on Neptune and a storm circling Uranus' north polar region.

"These images are part of a scrapbook of Hubble snapshots of Neptune and Uranus that track the weather patterns over time on these distant, cold planets", NASA said.

"It's a spectacular example of seasonal change on this ice giant, with the aerosol cap evolving as spring becomes summer". Rather, "it's caused mainly - at least in our models - by a lowering of the methane abundance above the main cloud deck accompanied by a possible slight increase in the haze opacity", he told Gizmodo.

Hubble uncovered the latest storm in September 2018 in Neptune's northern hemisphere. They are similar to clouds that appear as pancake-shaped features when air is pushed over mountains on Earth. Based on their observations, scientists measured the storm at about 6,800 miles across. "This polar hood may have formed by seasonal changes in atmospheric flow".

The causes of these dark spots is a mystery, but because they're only seen at the bluest wavelengths, "my money is on some sort of coloration of the clouds", said Irwin. Researchers suspect that the storms creep upward through the planet's atmosphere, lifting the ingredients of deeper layers of the atmosphere to the top. Unlike all the other planets in the solar system, Uranus is tipped on its side. Now the gas giant's strongest storm, which also holds the record for the longest storm of this type, is the Great Red Spot, which scientists believe has raged for at least 400 years.

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This image, taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), reveals a vast bright stormy cloud cap across the north pole of Uranus.

Like the Earth, Uranus and Neptune have seasons, which have their own characteristics.

The white cap is most likely the result of the planet's unique rotation - unlike every other planet in the system, Uranus has made a decision to rotate counterclockwise. The band circles the planet just north of the equator and it remains a mystery for scientists just how bands like these form on Uranus and Neptune since both planets have dominant jets of westward blowing wind that are generally very broad. The likely cause of this feature has to do with the planet's unique tilt, which causes sunlight to shine directly onto the north polar regions for an extended period of time during the summer.

Ice giants Uranus and Neptune have water-rich interiors coated with hydrogen, helium and a pinch of methane, the latter of which gives these outer planets their distinctive cyan complexion.

Like Neptune, Uranus is extremely far away.

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