Observations from the Chilean Very Large Telescope indicate that Neptune’s dark spots are caused by dark particles deep in the atmosphere
Images of Neptune taken by very large telescopes are divided into different wavelengths of light. In the rightmost image, all colors are grouped together with a black dot in the upper right corner Credit: ESO/P. Irwin et al.
For the first time, scientists have observed a strange black spot on Neptune, providing new clues to the formation of these spots.
In 1989, NASA’s Voyager 2 space probe detected a shadowy region on Neptune known as the Great Black Spot. Hubble Space Telescope observations show that these traces are common and tend to disappear after a few years.
The origin and nature of these spots remains a mystery, as observations are limited to images taken by Hubble, which captures mostly ultraviolet and visible light.
For the first time, Patrick Irwin and colleagues at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom have observed one of the dark spots on a wider spectrum using ground-based telescopes.
In 2018, Hubble discovered a new black spot on Neptune, and the team decided to see if the Chilean Very Large Telescope also found the black spot.
Its multi-cell spectroscopic detector divides light from planets into different wavelengths, including longer, redder parts of the spectrum, which allowed the team to observe the point from Earth and examine it in more detail.
The researchers found that the spots are caused by dark particles deep in Earth’s atmosphere, although their chemical composition is unclear. This is contrary to previous belief, when scientists thought the spots were caused by large gaps in Neptune’s clouds.
The researchers also noticed a smaller white patch next to the dark mark. They found that this is a rare bright cloud that, like the dark spot, is also located in Neptune’s lower atmosphere. Irwin said: “Most of the bright clouds we see in Neptune’s atmosphere are much higher than expected. ”
The researchers hope that ongoing monitoring will reveal more about these mysterious spots.
“It’s likely to be a big storm system, but we know almost nothing about it,” Irwin said. How do they arise? And why evolve? It would be a wonderful thing if the James Webb Space Telescope had a black spot while observing. ”
The researchers published the findings in the August 24 issue of Nature Astronomy. (Source: China Science News Guo Yueying)
Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-023-02047-0
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