Though similar features were seen during the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune in 1989 and by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994, this vortex is the first one observed on Neptune in the 21st century.
Neptune's dark vortices 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.
Neptune's dark vortices have exhibited surprising diversity over the years, in terms of size, shape, and stability (they meander in latitude, and sometimes speed up or slow down). They also come and go on much shorter timescales compared to similar anticyclones seen on Jupiter; large storms on Jupiter evolve over decades.
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.
The free event takes place from 6-11 p.m. on the National Mall (north of the Washington Monument; 15th Street NW and Constitution Ave). It features day/night close-up views of the Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars with 20 optical and radio telescopes; planetarium shows under a 25-foot dome; astronomical image exhibits, and interactive hands-on activities presented by science and educational organizations. Rain date is June 11 at The Catholic University of America, 620 Michigan Avenue Northeast.
the field has expanded rapidly. More than 3,000 confirmed
planets are now known outside of our solar system. This is
the start of a new era in exoplanet science, where we go
beyond measuring planetary mass and radius and begin to
probe their atmospheres. Such observations provide a
critical step in our understanding of planet formation and
are key to assessing the potential habitability of
exoplanets. We currently utilize a variety of methods to
detect and characterize exoplanets, and upcoming missions
will have the potential to detect signatures of life on
Join astronomer Nikole Lewis of the Space Telescope Science Institute, either online or in-person for June's Public Lecture Series. Visit http://hubblesite.org/about_us/public_talks/ for links to both live and previous lectures, or join us in the Space Telescope Science Institute auditorium, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, Md., 21218. The Public Lecture Series occurs on the first Tuesday of every month. Admission is free and free parking is available in the lot across the street.
Watch live on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YkTu48Hj_w
"This surprising finding may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95 percent of everything and don't emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter, and dark radiation," said study leader and Nobel Laureate Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and The Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland.
There are a few possible explanations for the universe's excessive speed. One possibility is that dark energy, already known to be accelerating the universe, may be shoving galaxies away from each other with even greater — or growing — strength.
Another idea is that the cosmos contained a new subatomic particle in its early history that traveled close to the speed of light. Such speedy particles are collectively referred to as "dark radiation" and include previously known particles like neutrinos. More energy from additional dark radiation could be throwing off the best efforts to predict today's expansion rate from its post-big bang trajectory.
The boost in acceleration could also mean that dark matter possesses some weird, unknown characteristics. Dark matter is the backbone of the universe upon which galaxies built themselves up into the large-scale structures seen today.
And finally, the speedier universe may be telling astronomers that Einstein's theory of gravity is incomplete.
A firestorm of star birth is lighting up one end of the diminutive galaxy Kiso 5639. The dwarf galaxy is shaped like a flattened pancake, but because it is tilted edge-on, it resembles a skyrocket, with a brilliant blazing head and a long, star-studded tail.
Kiso 5639 is a rare, nearby example of elongated galaxies that occur in abundance at larger distances, where we observe the universe during earlier epochs. Astronomers suggest that the frenzied star birth is sparked by intergalactic gas raining on one end of the galaxy as it drifts through space.
Host: Dr. Frank Summers
For more information: http://hubblesite.org/about_us/public_talks/
HubbleSite.org is the online home of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. HubbleSite is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD, which conducts Hubble's science mission.
Nearly 400 years after Galileo first observed the heavens through a telescope, we continue to seek answers to age-old questions about the universe. And while the technology has evolved over the centuries, the inquiry remains essentially the same: What's out there, where did it come from, and what does it mean?
At the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), we're working hard to study and explain the once-unimaginable celestial phenomena now made visible by the Hubble Space Telescope's cutting-edge technology.
HubbleSite is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute's Office of Public Outreach.