Dark Storm on Neptune Reverses Direction, Possibly Shedding a Fragment
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope watched a mysterious dark vortex on Neptune abruptly steer away from a likely death on the giant blue planet.
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.