Huge storms spotted on Uranus and Neptune

This image taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, reveals a vast bright stormy cloud cap across the north pole of Uranus. Image credit NASA  ESA  A. Simon NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center  M. Wong & A. Hsu University of California Ber

With these images, scientists can study how these weather changes impact each planet.

The first planet found with the aid of a telescope, Uranus was discovered in 1781 by astronomer William Herschel, NASA said.

The presence of a massive white cap on Uranus may appear to be disturbing, yet as planetary scientists are learning, this is the thing that a drawn-out summer looks like on the remote ice giant.

In order to determine what weather is like on these most distant planets, NASA must take many images over an extended period of time to monitor changes in the planets' atmosphere over time, hopefully giving them a long term record to work with.

The space agency also spotted a new storm brewing on Neptune. Image credit: NASA / ESA / A. Simon, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / M. Wong & A. Hsu, University of California, Berkeley.

But their seasons are much longer than on Earth, spanning decades rather than months. The new data, captured during the autumn of 2018, are providing important new insights into the seasonal variations on both Neptune and Uranus. From afar, the vortex appears like a dark blemish on the characteristic blue swirls of the frozen planet. The Voyager 2 spacecraft also discovered two other spots when it flew by the planet in 1989.

Hubble is the only telescope now that has the blue light sensitivity to capture these storms in Neptune's atmosphere, which appear and disappear very quickly, in astronomical terms.

NASA estimates the vortex measures about 6,800 miles (10,940km) across and is joined by white "companion clouds" to the left and right of the mass.

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Uranus is now deep into its summer season, and that shows in the giant, white cloud covering the planet's north pole, which now points toward the sun.

"These clouds are similar to clouds that appear as pancake-shaped features when air is pushed over mountains on Earth (though Neptune has no solid surface)", the STScI said.

The causes of these dark spots is a mystery, but because they're only seen at the bluest wavelengths, "my money is on some sort of coloration of the clouds", said Irwin.

It's unclear how these storms form, NASA said. Since the Hubble started tracking the storms, increased cloud activity has been a regular precursor to their appearance.

New the telescope shows a dark storm on the surface of Neptune, visible in the center top. The giant is sporting a wide white spot across its north pole.

Scientists believe this feature is a result of Uranus' unique rotation. Unlike all the other planets in the solar system, Uranus is tipped on its side.

'Because of this extreme tilt, during the planet's summer the Sun shines nearly directly onto the north pole and never sets.

Because of the distance at which Uranus orbits the Sun, the planet's years are a lot different than we experience here on Earth.

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