Hubble Confirms Dark Vortex On Neptune

Posted: Jun 24 2016, 7:33am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Hubble Confirms Dark Vortex on Neptune
This new Hubble Space Telescope image confirms the presence of a dark vortex in the atmosphere of Neptune. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M.H. Wong and J. Tollefson (UC Berkeley)
  • Dark Vortex spotted in the Atmosphere of Neptune

A dark vortex has been spotted recently in the frigid atmosphere of Neptune. Astronomers are currently busy studying it on an extensive basis.

A couple of images gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope have shown a dark vortex on the blue surface of Neptune. This is a relatively infrequent occurrence that may be here for many more years.

It is the first vortex to be seen in the atmosphere of Neptune in the 21st century. The exact time period during which it slowly came to light was September 2015.

Basically, it is a high pressure system resembling many mid-Atlantic eddies that occur on our home planet. Also high pressure phenomena that bring droughts and warm balmy weather to the West Coast resemble this vortex on Neptune’s frigid atmosphere. It is not a cyclone or typhoon though.

On the surface of Neptune, such dark patches are often co-existent with bright areas of high-floating clouds. These are currently visible on Neptune thereby clarifying any dilemmas about the dark vortex that has been detected.

Air rises and freezes thereby forming these clouds. A dark vortex floats through the atmosphere like a large patch of solid matter. The first time these dark vortices were detected was in 1989.

In July of 2015, bright clouds were observed on Neptune. It took many telescopes to spot them. The astronomers were bamboozled by them. They surmised regarding whether they were storms or companion clouds.

Finally in September of that year the answer came. The close-up image of Neptune showed the dark spot very clearly. There could be no doubt about its existence.

Also ground-based observation from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii confirmed this sighting. The vortices that have been elucidated up until now have shown a great deal of diversity. The sizes, shapes, oscillations and movements of these vortices were quite variegated indeed.

There is the phenomenon known as “The Berg”. It can be seen on Uranus. It remained intact for a long time after which it migrated across the surface of Uranus.

Eventually it just disappeared after losing its coherence. Such phenomena are interesting to study and astronomy and astrophysics are all the richer for having probed into them.

Neptune’s vortices are much more ephemeral than what you see on the surface of Jupiter. Many questions about these strange anomalies on planetery surfaces remain unanswered. Future research will yield new knowledge about these vortices and enrich our understanding about them to an even greater extent.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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