Popular Astronomy

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Fri, 31 Jul 2015 - Storm feature spotted on Neptune

An interesting news items for observers of the outer ‘Ice Giant’ planets Uranus and Neptune:-

Last summer professional observers led by Imke de Pater, at the Keck observatory in Hawaii, discovered large pale storms raging in the upper atmosphere of Uranus. Most observers have seen Uranus as a rather placid pale blue disc but these storm features were very large and observations by amateurs quickly followed.  Now comes the news that similar large storms have been seen in the atmosphere of Neptune. This is, perhaps, not a great surprise as Neptune is known to have a very active atmosphere however it is the scale of the new features that is fascinating.

The discovery was announced on the 13th of july by Riacardo Hueso and Jose F. Rojas using the 2.2 metre telescope at the Calar Alto observatory in Spain (source: BAA) of a massive pale spot visible in the near infra-red on the disc of Neptune. They recommended that any amateur who wished to observe this storm should use a filter that passes infra-red light from 750Nm upwards in frequency.

Soon after this the well-known French amateur Marc Del Croix released images taken with a 320mm Newtonian telescope from a district of western Toulouse in southern France. His image shows pale features on the planetary disc. Images like these are within the grasp of a large number of well-equipped amateurs and will allow professionals to track development of these features and learn more about this distant member of our solar system. Uranus and Neptune are becoming better placed in the night sky as summer moves on and into autumn, giving ample opportunity to check on the longevity of these features on both planets.


Added by: Alan Clitherow