Neptune's "Fart Storm" Is About to Die

Neptune storm

NASA scientists are watching a storm die on Neptune as the Hubble Space Telescope broadcasts this kind of event for the first time. One key element of this mix is probably the chemical compound hydrogen sulfide, which is known for smelling a lot like rotten eggs.

However, they thrive only for a few years and end up dying, which is exactly what Hubble has seen in a storm that appeared in 2015. Although storms have come and gone in the decades since NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft whizzed by closer than any man-made object had approached Neptune, the space agency reported that this is the first time it is actually seeing a storm diminish into oblivion. But Hubble can see it thanks to its Wide Field Camera 3 which can probe the hazy atmosphere at blue optical wavelengths.

"Like Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the storm swirls in an anticyclonic direction and is dredging up material from deep inside the ice giant planet's atmosphere", according to NASA.

The particles themselves are still highly reflective; they're just slightly darker than the particles in the surrounding atmosphere.

Storms on Neptune are dark in color due to the specific way in which the planet's currents operate. Unlike Jupiter's Great Red Spot, which is kept in place by broad jet streams, Neptune features just three broad streams - one that blows westward at the equator, and a pair that blows in an eastward at the poles.

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The mysterious storm on Neptune was first spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2015. Hubble and Voyager are the only scientific instruments able to observe Neptune's storms.

Agustín Sánchez-Lavega from the University of the Basque Country said that they have no evidence how these vortices are formed or how fast they rotate. Researchers expected the storm to break up and perhaps create a spectacular outburst of cloud activity.

In a statement, Michael Wong, co-author of the Astronomical Journal study and a researcher at UC Berkeley, admitted that the storm's behavior is different than what well-known studies led scientists to expect.

Astronomers do not now know much about how storms form, how quickly they move or what is going on within them. Previously, models that predicted the movement of SDS-2015 suggested that the dark vortex should drift toward the equator, guided by wind shear. There's literally only one instrument now in operation that can detect and track these vortices, namely the Hubble Space Telescope.

'The vortex should be free to change traffic lanes and cruise anywhere in between the jets'. "For now, only Hubble can provide the data we need to understand how common or rare these fascinating neptunian weather systems may be".

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