Hubble Identifies Shrinking Storm on Neptune

Three billion miles away on Neptune, a large storm the size of China is slowly shrinking out of existence. The storm is believed to be made up entirely of Hydrogen Sulphide which emits the same odor as rotten eggs. The finding was identified by a research team from the University of Louisville. The team published the outcome of a study in the Astronomical Journal.

Source: The Inquisitr

Apparently, during this time the storm gets smaller and finally fades out, it will give key information about the weather systems of the planet and about the nature of its violent winds.

Theories on Neptune’s Vortex Origin and Demise

The mysterious storm on Neptune was first identified by the Hubble Telescope in 2015. Only five of these vortex type whirlwinds have been discovered on Neptune and the most recent, dubbed SDS-2015, can only be detected and tracked using the Hubble Telescope. As such, not a lot is currently known concerning what the dying storm is actually like though scientists expect that it is dredging materials from deep within the surface of Neptune.

The particles within the storm are very reflective and a shade darker as compared to the particles within the atmosphere which surrounds the storm allegedly. The dominating theory was that once the storm got close to the equator of the planet, the vortex would break up resulting in visible outbursts of cloud activity. It is only when the Hubble telescope began to photograph the planets within the solar system regularly, that data became available to track the storms on Neptune.

Source: IBTimes UK

It would seem the death of the storm may be due to the direction it is currently moving. According to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland which manages the Hubble, it is also being propelled by three wind jets which circle the planet. Another theory is the vortices form when the clouds in the atmosphere swirl and then freeze because of the subzero temperatures on Neptune. The frozen mass then shifts in the atmosphere like giant pancakes and they draw up materials such as hydrogen sulfide.

Contradictory Storm Behaviour

Now the storm is behaving differently from what the planet watchers had originally predicted. According to Michael Wong from the University of California at Berkeley, it is different from what well-known studies have led people to expect. The dynamic solutions indicated anticyclones under Neptune’s wind shear would drift toward the equator. However, the dark spot which was first observed from the mid-southern latitudes has clearly faded away as opposed to going out to a climax. That could be connected to the surprising direction of the measured amount of drift toward the South Pole, as opposed to northward looking towards the equator.

Source: Astronomy Magazine

Unlike Jupiter’s GRS, the spot on Neptune is not as tightly constrained by several alternating wind jets. Because of its system of three, it should be free enough to alternate between traffic lanes so to speak. The reason for this fascination is the swirling storms are the only way at the present that scientists can study the atmosphere of these distant ice planets. Though with the James Webb Space Telescope being commission in the coming year, it is will be possible to make more pertinent discoveries and not only rely on the Hubble Telescope.