Mysterious Dark Spot Discovered on Neptune
by Theodore B. Morrison, age 13
There are many mysteries surrounding the planet Neptune, but one in particular has sparked interest in the scientific community: a storm whose actions are still puzzling scientists.
A storm was first observed in 1989 by the Voyager 2 (currently the only spacecraft to reach Neptune). This storm had a companion storm that was smaller and was nicknamed “Scooter.” When the Hubble telescope was launched in 1993, scientists were once again able to see storms on Neptune. In 2018 another storm nicknamed “Dark Spot” was spotted traveling towards the equator of Neptune, but then in January of 2020 it changed directions heading north. At the same time, a smaller companion storm nicknamed “Dark Spot Jr.” was observed.
The Dark Spot is 4,600 miles across, which is larger than the Atlantic Ocean. These storms on Neptune are observed to last 2-5 years, which is short in comparison to storms on other distant planets. Scientists find Neptune’s storms hard to study due to their relatively short duration.
Dark Spot remains a mystery. Scientists do not understand the reasons behind Dark Spot heading south and then looping back north. Past storms have dissipated as they near Neptune's equator. Scientists believe that Dark Spot sheared off a part of itself to create Dark Spot Jr. at the same time that it turned north.
Neptune’s Dark Spot raises a storm of questions which are waiting to be solved by the scientific community, assisted by all the current technology available to science. It will be interesting to watch Neptune for future development on the question.
[Sources: New York Times; CNN]