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Dark storm on Neptune changes direction unexpectedly

Dark storm on Neptune
Click for full image.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have found that a dark storm discovered on Neptune in 2018 has been drifting across the gas giant in unexpected ways.

The storm, which is wider than the Atlantic Ocean, was born in the planet’s northern hemisphere and discovered by Hubble in 2018. Observations a year later showed that it began drifting southward toward the equator, where such storms are expected to vanish from sight. To the surprise of observers, Hubble spotted the vortex change direction by August 2020, doubling back to the north. Though Hubble has tracked similar dark spots over the past 30 years, this unpredictable atmospheric behavior is something new to see.

Equally as puzzling, the storm was not alone. Hubble spotted another, smaller dark spot in January this year that temporarily appeared near its larger cousin. It might possibly have been a piece of the giant vortex that broke off, drifted away, and then disappeared in subsequent observations.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows both storms. The smaller dark spot can be seen faintly to the right of the larger storm.

Since Hubble has been observing Neptune in 1993 it has seen four such storms, all of which have faded away after about two Earth years. What causes the storms as well as their motions in Neptune’s atmosphere remains unknown, and any theories posited (such as those noted at the link) are highly unreliable, considering the paucity of data we have about Neptune’s atmosphere and the meteorology of such gas giants.

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Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

2 comments

  • Max

    Curious, we can really use a probe in orbit to do spectral analysis of the composition.

    Although Neptune is the farthest planet from the sun,(until Pluto and other planetoids are recognized do to their uniquness) it’s way “too hot” for anything to last very long sent into the atmosphere. Probes will burn up quicker there than on Venus, almost as fast as on Jupiter.

    It has more gravity than Saturn, 1/5 more than earth.
    (Beautiful Saturn has near 1/10 more gravity making it easier to colonize if there’s a way to collapse the atmosphere into water)

  • pzatchok

    I was going to say it was global warming.

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