Inquisitive

Mysterious planet activity leaves astronomers baffled over storm

Storm in solar system dramatically changed direction

It is something believers and sceptics alike often wonder: is there life on other planets?

While the evidence does seem to be mounting, there is also some very intriguing activity taking place that has left astronomers scratching their heads.

Over on Neptune, which is the eight planet in our solar system and therefore furthest from the sun, a storm swooped in before reversing direction.

Storms in themselves are not uncommon, as being 2.8billion miles from the sun means it gets seriously cold with temperatures of -220°C, however the mysterious movement is odd.

[Credit: NASA]

In fact, with Neptune’s thick atmosphere and clouds that whip around, wind speeds have been measured at near 1,200 miles per hour ­– making them the fastest in the solar system.

Yet NASA astronomers have spied new atmospheric behaviour through their Hubble Space Telescope, which remains the world’s largest and sharpest technology to track the universe.

The storm hatched in a pre-Covid world and has been whirling around since 2018, yet it was slowly drifting towards the planet’s equator where it was expected to dissipate.

Now, the storm – which measures wider than the Atlantic Ocean – abruptly switched direction and doubled back to Neptune’s northern hemisphere.

[Credit: NASA]

The discovery comes as a new force of nature appears to have been discovered, which could rewrite science as we know it and even explain why humans exist on earth.

Currently, there are four forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force), meaning the latest findings would be the fifth and pose new scientific theory.

Speaking about the Neptune sightings, Dr Michael Wong of the University of California at Berkeley said he was also excited about a secondary observation that detected a smaller dark spot near the larger storm that may have been a piece of the giant vortex that broke off.

Dr Wong said: “This is a process that’s never been observed. We have seen some other dark spots fading away, and they’re gone, but we’ve never seen anything disrupt.”

[Credit: Luca Baggio / Unsplash]

A NASA spokesperson said the research remains a mystery as to how these storms form, but this latest one is by far the best studied so far.

They said: “The storm’s dark appearance may be due to an elevated dark cloud layer, and it could be telling astronomers about the storm’s vertical structure.

“Another unusual feature of the dark spot is the absence of bright companion clouds around it, which were present in Hubble images taken when the vortex was discovered.”

It is believed the clouds disappeared when the vortex halted its southward journey before going north again, and the lack of clouds could hold key information on how dark spots evolve.

We can’t wait to see how this develops!

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