A huge, dying storm on Neptune

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A dark storm on Neptune, once big enough to cover more distance than Kashmir to Kanyakumari, is dwindling to nothing.


When NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Neptune in 1989, it observed large, dark storms inhabiting the distant planet’s atmosphere. Since then, scientists have monitored Neptune using the Hubble Space Telescope and seen new storms develop.

But unlike Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a storm which has been roiling for at least two centuries, the storms brewing on the windy planet Neptune come and go in just a few years — and now, for the first time, researchers have seen one begin to disappear.

The Great Dark Spot

It is also known as GDS-89 was one of a series of dark spots on Neptune similar in appearance to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. GDS-89 ((G)reat (D)ark (S)pot – 19(89)) was the first Great Dark Spot on Neptune to be observed in 1989 by NASA’s Voyager 2 spaceprobe. Like Jupiter’s spot, Great Dark Spots are anticyclonic storms.

However, their interiors are relatively cloud-free, and unlike Jupiter’s spot, which has lasted for hundreds of years, their lifetimes appear to be shorter, forming and dissipating once every few years or so. Based on observations taken with Voyager 2 and since then with the Hubble Space Telescope, Neptune appears to spend somewhat more than half its time with a Great Dark Spot. Almost all that is known about Neptune is based on the research carried out by Voyager 2.

Hubble telescope

Hubble, the observatory, is the first major optical telescope to be placed in space, the ultimate mountaintop. Above the distortion of the atmosphere, far above rain clouds and light pollution, Hubble has an unobstructed view of the universe. Scientists have used Hubble to observe the most distant stars and galaxies as well as the planets in our solar system.

Hubble’s launch and deployment in April 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope. Thanks to five servicing missions and more than 25 years of operation, our view of the universe and our place within it has never been the same.


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