Mysterious dark spot found on Neptune for the 1st time

This is the very first time such a large dark spot in Neptune's atmosphere has been seen using a telescope from Earth.

Astronomers have made an exciting discovery by spotting a large dark patch in Neptune’s atmosphere. This is the very first time such a dark spot on the planet has been observed using a telescope from Earth. To add to the intrigue, a smaller bright spot was found nearby, which was unexpected. These unusual occurrences in Neptune’s blue-hued atmosphere have puzzled scientists for a long time. The latest findings, made possible by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), offer new insights into their nature and origin.

Back in 1989, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft spotted a dark spot on Neptune, but it disappeared after a few years. “I’ve always been curious about these fleeting and enigmatic dark features since the first one was discovered,” remarked Patrick Irwin, a Professor at the University of Oxford who led the study.

The recent observations suggest that these dark spots likely form when air particles darken in a layer beneath the main visible haze in Neptune’s atmosphere. This darkening might occur as different ices and hazes mix within the planet’s atmosphere. The study also brought a surprising revelation – the identification of a rare type of deep bright cloud that had never been seen before, even from space. This finding was shared by Michael Wong, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who co-authored the study.

Studying these dark spots has been a challenge because they aren’t permanent features and hadn’t been studied in detail before. However, the situation changed when NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope spotted several dark spots on Neptune, including one in the planet’s northern hemisphere in 2018. Thanks to the powerful capabilities of ESO’s VLT, astronomers can now closely examine these intriguing features right from our planet. This marks a significant step towards unraveling the mysteries hidden within Neptune’s dynamic atmosphere.

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