Dec 22, 2020 - Science

New Hubble image sheds light on Neptune's storms


Neptune has never had a dedicated space mission, but the Hubble Space Telescope is still shedding new light on the workings of the mysterious planet.

Driving the news: A new photo from the space telescope shows a long-lived storm — the dark spot in the upper center — first spotted in 2018 still going strong.

  • Scientists expected the large, dark storm would disappear because they saw it moving toward the planet's equator, where these types of storms usually fade.
  • However, the new Hubble observations show the dark spot — which is wider than the Atlantic Ocean — moved back above the equator unexpectedly.

The intrigue: The Hubble also found a smaller, dark storm in the planet's atmosphere in January. Scientists suspect it might be a broken-off bit of the larger storm.

  • "It was also in January that the dark vortex stopped its motion and started moving northward again," Michael Wong of the University of California at Berkeley, said in a statement. "Maybe by shedding that fragment, that was enough to stop it from moving towards the equator."
Go deeper