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NASA finds new vortex on Neptune

New dark mole appears on Neptune's face Photograph: (Getty)

ANI University of California, Berkeley Jun 24, 2016, 08.31 AM (IST)
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found a brand-new mark on the surface of the farthest planet from the sun. 

This vortex is the first one observed on Neptune in the 21st century though similar features were seen around two decades ago in the year 1994 during the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune in 1989 and by the Hubble Space Telescope. The discovery was announced on May 17 in a Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) electronic telegram by team leader Mike Wong of the University of California at Berkeley.

Neptune's dark vortices, according to experts, are high-pressure systems and are usually accompanied by bright "companion clouds", which are also now visible on the distant planet. The bright clouds form when the flow of ambient air is perturbed and diverted upward over the dark vortex, causing gases to likely freeze into methane ice crystals.

"Dark vortices coast through the atmosphere like huge, lens-shaped gaseous mountains," Wong explains, adding, "and the companion clouds are similar to so-called orographic clouds that appear as pancake-shaped features lingering over mountains on Earth".

"Planetary astronomers hope to better understand how dark vortices originate, what controls their drifts and oscillations, how they interact with the environment, and how they eventually dissipate," according to UC Berkeley doctoral student Joshua Tollefson. Measuring the evolution of the new dark vortex will extend knowledge of both the dark vortices themselves, as well as the structure and dynamics of the surrounding atmosphere. 

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