Hubble Space Telescope Has Update on Uranus, Neptune’s Weather

Federico Mansilla
Febrero 10, 2019

"The yearly observations are helping us to understand the frequency of storms, as well as their longevity", Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center who leads the OPAL mission, told Gizmodo.

Unlike Earth, where seasons last just a few months, Neptune and Uranus experience seasons that last for decades, resulting in odd and intense atmospheric phenomena. However, they have longer seasons than our planet that can last for decades instead of months. The new data, captured during the spring of 2018, are providing important new insights into the seasonal variations on both Neptune and Uranus.

Appeared during the summer on the southern part of the planet, this vortex is the fourth and last, the mysterious dark education has been captured by the camera since 1993.

Two other dark storms were discovered by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989 as it flew by the remote planet, NASA said. Since then, only Hubble has had the sensitivity in blue light to track these elusive features, which have appeared and faded quickly.

The dark vortex, a massive storm, in other words, hit the Neptune's northern hemisphere. That hemisphere is now sporting a massive dark storm that stretches about 6,800 miles (11,000 kilometers) across.

The large white cap strewn over the north pole of Uranus is particularly dramatic.

Nestling up next to Neptune's "dark vortex" are larger patches of white clouds created by gases freezing into methane crystals as air gets pushed up over the disturbance, not unlike the way clouds form over landmasses on Earth. It also shows "companion clouds" that appear along with the vortices.

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Patrick Irwin, a planetary scientist at Oxford University, said the phenomenon is not a storm, as NASA described it in its release. But like Jupiter's famed Great Red Spot, the dark storms seem to dredge up material from deeper levels of the planets' atmospheres.

This image, taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), reveals a vast bright stormy cloud cap across the north pole of Uranus. It's now mid-summer at Uranus' north pole, resulting in the protracted white cap.

Scientists believe this feature is a result of Uranus' unique rotation.

The distant blue planets of our solar system, Uranus and Neptune, are now showing more storms than ever throughout the year as they are going through extended summer seasons.

NASA explained that the planet is in the middle of summer and because of its weird tilt, the north pole is always facing the sun, never setting.

Similar to Earth, Neptune and Uranus have seasons that change atmospheric conditions. The exact causes of these aerosol changes, he said, remain a mystery, with possibilities including warming temperatures, unusual chemistry, some large-scale atmospheric circulation pattern, or a combination of all these. This suggests that the systems take a while to build and likely find their roots deeper in the planet's atmosphere, and perhaps even deeper than that in its superheated ocean-like mantle of water, ammonia, and methane-ices.

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