Hubble Spies Dark Vortex On Neptune

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The Hubble Space Telescope continues to be nothing less than a workhorse for both NASA and its adoring fans who love pictures taken from space. Hubble has just identified a new spot hovering over Neptune, the first spot hovering over Neptune seen in this new century.

James Webb Space Telescope will only make Hubble more fun

The Hubble telescope is a bad ass and I only hope that we don’t forget the incredible work and imagery it has given us,. Hubble working together with a functioning (fingers crossed) James Webb Space telescope in a little over a year’s time will only prove Hubble’s value and the imagery from its new friend will be stunning.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be roughly seven times as powerful as Hubble and take a position about four times as far from the Earth as the moon’s orbit. That’s if it works. The telescope will need to assemble itself. It you remember the Hubble launch, it didn’t work when launched well over 25 years ago. Thankfully, we has a space shuttle program to repair it and upgrade it four times. In theory, the Hubble will work like a spotter for the better sniper, scan for targets and let the new telescope take it from there.

But until that day comes, the Hubble is what we have and it continues to surprise.

Hubble recently confirmed the presence of a high-pressure system or dark vortex which appears to leave a spot on Neptune, though that’s certainly not the case as it’s in the atmosphere.

“Dark vortices coast through the atmosphere like huge, lens-shaped gaseous mountains,” research astronomer Mike Wong, of the University of California at Berkeley said in a statement announcing the prolific find. Wong was the leader of the group that looked over and studied Hubble’s work.

“And the companion clouds are similar to so-called organic clouds that appear as pancake-shaped features lingering over mountains on Earth,” he continued.

So far, there is no accompanying paper to go with the find as it was simply announced by a a Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) electronic telegram.

Not the first time noticed, first time confirmed in this century

The bright clouds observed are a result of normal air flows being pushed upwards by a dark vortex where the gases freeze into methane crystals and form visible clouds outside of blue wavelengths. Following the observations by amateur astronomers as well as professionals in 2015, NASA started the project known as Hubble’s Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) to map the outer planets of our solar system and Hubble as turned to Neptune in September of last year.

The feature that will be around for quite sometime is essentially a maelstrom measuring about 3,000 miles in diameter in the southern hemisphere of Neptune’s atmosphere.

While earth-based astronomers did see these features last year, the Voyager 2 spacecraft first observed the presence of a dark vortex in 1989, with Hubble catching it in 1994.

Neptune is not the only planet where this phenomenon has been spotted; they have been observed on both Saturn and Jupiter.

While researchers could see the bright clouds that accompany dark vortices; May of this year was the first time, thanks to Hubble’s OPAL project, that the dark spot was made visible.

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at [email protected]

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