Friday, 22 March, 2019

Hubble Space Telescope is watching a massive storm on Neptune disappear

Hubble Space Telescope is watching a massive storm on Neptune disappear Hubble Space Telescope is watching a massive storm on Neptune disappear
Sandra Phillips | 17 February, 2018, 23:20

Nasa scientists using Hubble Space Telescope have noticed something weird on planet Neptune - an ominous, dark-looking storm that is shrinking. Scientists found out that the dark vortex is shrinking rapidly and is following a different path unlike other vortices traced on Neptune.

The first images of the dark vortex are from the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program, a long-term Hubble project that annually captures global maps of our solar system's four outer planets.

Researchers from the University of Louisville had predicted this outcome.

But this storm stayed its course, dying out in a horizontal path that didn't bring it towards the Neptunian equator at all, forcing scientists to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new theory on the planet's weather habits. 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.

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. We thought that once the vortex got too close to the equator, it would break up and perhaps create a spectacular outburst of cloud activity.

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Not much is known about what this dying storm is actually like, but scientists expect that it's probably dredging up a lot of materials from deep within the planet's surface. Unlike Jupiter's Great Red Spot, which is kept in place by broad jet streams, Neptune features just three broad streams - one that blows westward at the equator, and a pair that blows in an eastward at the poles. Only Hubble has the unique capability to probe these worlds in ultraviolet light, which yields important information not available to other present-day telescopes.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of global cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations.

The machinery sits more than 370 miles above earth.

The Hubble focuses on areas in deep outer space "where some of the most profound mysteries are still buried in the mists of time". This allows Neptune's vortex to be a shiftless drifter, changing its "traffic lanes" in ways that are hard to anticipate. The vortex was 3,100 miles (5,000 km) across when Hubble first spotted it in 2015, and now it's down to 2,300 miles (3,700 km).

'The first images of the dark vortex are from the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program, a long-term Hubble project that annually captures global maps of our solar system's four outer planets, ' the statement from NASA said. There's literally only one instrument now in operation that can detect and track these vortices, namely the Hubble Space Telescope.

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