Now You See 'em,
Now You Don't
from Lake Afton Public Observatory
In August of 1989 Voyager 2 gave us our closest look at the planet Neptune. Voyager found a stunning variety of cloud formations, including high altitude cirrus-like clouds, dark cloud belts and two dark spots. The larger of the two dark spots was named the Great Dark Spot. Planetary scientists drew obvious comparisons between it and Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Both spots lie at similar latitudes (about 20o south of the equator). Each spot is large in size (Neptune's large spot is nearly Earth sized and Jupiter's is much larger than Earth) and rotates in a counterclockwise direction.
Jupiter's Great Red Spot has been observed continuously for over 300 years. This fact, coupled with laboratory and computer simulations, has led to the idea that these features are essentially permanent. Just when everybody got comfortable with the theory of giant spots on giant planets, Neptune pulled a surprise.
The Hubble studies undertaken in June and October of 1994 will be complimented by additional observations of Neptune in the summer of 1995.
Neptune: The Big Blue Suprise
Sky and Telescope Magazine February, 1995.
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