NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has shared new photos of Neptune and Uranus, revealing some of the latest mysteries that have affected the giant ice planets.
The images released on Thursday appealed to space enthusiasts who described the scenes as "spectacular" and "fascinating". Many wanted to know what exactly caused the flip of a giant white cap over the northern pole of Uranus and the formation of a new "dark mysterious vortex" at the top center of Neptune.
The space agency explained that the seasons of the planets, which are very different from those of the Earth and can extend over several decades, could play a role in some of the strange atmospheric events.
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The images were captured during NASA's annual surveillance of planets in our solar system.
"[These] the observations help us understand the frequency of the storms, as well as their longevity, "said Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Gizmodo. "It's important because these planets are quite far from the Sun. This will help to limit their formation and learn more about the internal heat and structure of these planets. Most extrasolar planets discovered have this size, even if they are at all distances from their parent stars. "
According to NASA, this is the fourth time that a dark spot is hovering over the planet furthest away from the Sun.
"Two other darknesses were discovered by the Voyager 2 satellite in 1989 while it was flying on a distant planet," NASA added in an online statement, noting that a study by Lt. University of California at Berkeley felt that spots appeared every four or six years or so. .
This recent storm, measured by NASA and measuring 6,800 km wide, was discovered in September 2018 when Hubble observed the northern hemisphere of Neptune.
"We do not know how these storms are formed, but like the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, the dark swirls turn in a high pressure direction and seem to be dredging materials from deeper levels in the sky. Ice giant's atmosphere, "explained NASA, explaining salient as it reaches a higher altitude.
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Like Neptune, Uranus knew his own storm.
A "shining storm cloud hat" was seen hovering over the seventh planet of the sun.
"Scientists believe that this new feature results from the unique rotation of Uranus, unlike all other planets in the solar system," NASA said. "Uranus rocks almost to the side.Because of this extreme tilt, during the summer of the planet, the Sun shines almost directly on the North Pole and never sets … This polar hood can s & # 39; be formed by seasonal changes in atmospheric flux. "
As Uranus arrives in the middle of summer, the "polar cap region" is easier to spot.
"In 2007, nothing resembled this polar ice cap above the spring pole. But over time, a reflective band – whitish against the blue hues of Uranus – began to appear around the North Pole. And now, 10 years later, this band has become a thick layer of aerosols that conceals the deepest polar region, "said Gizmodo, Leicester University astronomer Leigh Fletcher.
NASA admits that the "cloud of ice methane" surrounding the polar storm is not yet known.
"It's a mystery to see how such bands are confined to such narrow widths because Uranus and Neptune have very large gusts of wind blowing from the west," the agency added.