An unusual new feature has appeared on Neptune: a “dark vortex” so massive that it would swallow the United States if it was here on Earth.
“Dark vortices coast through the atmosphere like huge, lens-shaped gaseous mountains,” Berkeley research astronomer Mike Wong, who led the team that analyzed the Hubble data, said in a news release. “And the companion clouds are similar to so-called orographic clouds that appear as pancake-shaped features lingering over mountains on Earth.”
A dark vortex on Neptune is a high-pressure system that usually is accompanied by bright “companion clouds,” NASA said.
“We speculate that these dark spots on Neptune (which are most visible at blue wavelengths) are probably ‘clear’ areas, openings in the cloud decks that see to deeper layers,” Heidi Hammel, a researcher at the Space Science Institute, told Astronomy magazine. “The bright companions (which are most visible at redder wavelengths) are thought to be higher-altitude clouds.”
Those companion clouds form by air being diverted over the vortex, which then causes gases to freeze, probably into methane ice crystals, NASA said.
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post, Ed Mazza