NASA Scientists Report Strange 'Dark Vortex' In Neptune's Atmosphere

Uranus is extremely pretty and has a fetching cloud of gas surrounding its northern tip

Hubble's new image of Uranus shows that the ice giant is not a planetary wallflower; a vast bright polar cap across the north pole dominates the image. Scientists think the feature may be caused by seasonal changes in weather on the planet.

The usual icy blue tone of Neptune was disrupted by a brewing storm in a new photograph taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

"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.

In contrast to Earth, where seasons last only a couple of months, Neptune and Uranus experience seasons that keep going for quite a long time, bringing about weird and intense atmospheric phenomena.

According to a NASA statement released with the new images, the planets "have no solid surface but rather mantles of hydrogen and helium surrounding a water-rich interior, itself perhaps wrapped around a rocky core". The new data, captured during the spring of 2018, are providing important new insights into the seasonal variations on both Neptune and Uranus.

In September, Hubble spotted a mysterious storm in Neptune's northern hemisphere. Now experiencing summer in its southern hemisphere, a dark, stormy spot can be seen in its northern hemisphere that NASA says is about 6,800 miles across-about 2.5 times the width of the continental United States. In the older images, "increased cloud activity" came years before the sixth and most recent dark storm appeared and was detected.

The frosty planet can be seen with a massive white cap dominating its northern pole, and as NASA explains in a new blog post its unusual appearance is actually owed to its freaky orientation.

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. But like Jupiter's famed Great Red Spot, the dark storms seem to dredge up material from deeper levels of the planets' atmospheres.

"The images indicate that the vortices probably develop deeper in Neptune's atmosphere, becoming visible only when the top of the storm reaches higher altitudes". The giant is sporting a wide white spot across its north pole.

The Hubble snapshots of Uranus reveal w monstrous white cap covering up the upper half of the planet.

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

Thanks to the extreme tilt of Uranus-the planet spins almost completely on its side-the Sun shines nearly overhead relative to Uranus's north pole in the summertime and doesn't set for decades. Whereas Earth's worst storms typically last no more than days or weeks, Neptune's newest dark vortex is expected to last years.

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