Epic storms rage across Neptune and Uranus in new Hubble images

Hubble has made another discovery about the planets in our Solar System during its routine yearly monitoring — unexpected weather formations that give us clues about the atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune.

As on Earth, other planets in the Solar System also have seasons caused by the axial tilt of the planet and its variable distance from the Sun (due to orbital eccentricity, or the oval-shaped orbit of planets which moves them closer to the Sun at some times and further away at others). Uranus and Neptune have much longer seasons than Earth, with seasons that last for decades rather than months.

This means that Hubble is still gathering data about seasonal changes on these planets. In 2007 the northern hemisphere of Uranus came out of a winter which lasted for 42 years and is followed by a 42 year-long summer. And there’s a storm brewing there — a huge stormy cloud cap which is covering the north pole and a good chunk of the planet’s surface, which can be seen in the image below. In the case of Neptune, a dark splotch can be seen which also indicates a storm, although in this case it is a storm vortex with white companion clouds nearby.

uranus neptune storms hubble 839 stsci h p1906a f 1028x543
The white cap visible over the polar region of Uranus (left) and a dark storm over Neptune (right) NASA, ESA, A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley)

Uranus is believed to be experiencing this massive storm because it has a unique rotation pattern. It has an extreme degree of tilt, shifted almost completely over on its side, so during summer the Sun shines almost straight down onto the north pole and never sets. As the northern hemisphere approaches the middle of its summer season, the polar cap region is directly exposed to the Sun which drives seasonal changes in atmospheric flow.

As for Neptune, this is not the first time that storms have been observed on the planet. The Voyager 2 craft observed two dark storms as it flew past in 1989, and scientists have calculated that dark spots appear on the planet around every four to six years, lasting around two years each. The dark vortex is accompanied by white clouds due to the movement of air as it flows over the storm, causing methane gas to freeze into ice crystals and forming clouds similar to the ones we see here on Earth.

Movies & TV

Chernobyl: 10 burning questions we still have after watching the HBO miniseries

If you're like us, after watching the HBO miniseries about the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, you still have many burning questions about what really happened. Here are some answers to those the series doesn't cover.
Movies & TV

Snuggle up with the best romance films currently streaming on Netflix

Looking for a story about love and lust? We've rounded up the most romantic films currently on Netflix, whether you're looking for a story about young love or a man who falls in love with artificial intelligence.
Movies & TV

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker had an unusual production process, editor says

Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker's first teaser trailer and plot details have arrived. Here's everything we know about the movie before it premieres in December 2019.
Computing

How to watch AMD’s E3 Next Horizon Gaming press conference

AMD is scheduled to deliver a press conference to kick off E3 on Monday, June 10. The presentation is set to focus on gaming, and we expect to hear more about the company's new Navi RX 5000 graphics cards.
Emerging Tech

Uber Eats’ drone delivery service could see Big Macs hit speeds of 70 mph

Uber Eats is testing meal delivery using drones. The company wants to start a commercial delivery service using the drone this summer, but it still needs permission from regulators.
Emerging Tech

A giant new solar farm in Texas will harness the sun’s rays to … brew beer?

Brewing beer is surprisingly energy intensive. With a giant new solar farm in Texas, the world’s largest beer manufacturer promises to brew 100% of its beverages using renewable energy.
Emerging Tech

This lifesaving wearable could diagnose strokes more accurately

A new breakthrough wearable device uses two light measurement techniques to track the body's blood circulation — and accurately predict deadly strokes in the process. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sloshed drone pilots in Japan can now be punished with jail time

If you're flying a drone in Japan, better not be sloshed when you send your bird skyward. A new law passed this week could see drunk drone pilots sent to jail for up to a year or hit with a hefty fine.
Emerging Tech

Mount Everest is now home to the world’s highest weather station

A team of scientists has created a new record with the installation of the world’s highest weather station atop Everest. Data from the expedition will help researchers better understand the effect of climate change on the region.
Emerging Tech

This drone with hands looks like a nightmare straight out of Black Mirror

This unlikely drone-with-hands creation is the work of Federico Ciccarese, the brains behind YouBionic, a bionic hand project that has evolved far beyond its original brief. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

This crazy-looking robot uses microspines on its legs to climb up walls

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have built a bioinspired robot, which uses microspines on its feet to grip onto rough surfaces. This allows it to climb up very steep gradients. Check it out.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Emerging Tech

Got $400 million to burn? The world’s largest airplane is up for sale

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane, is up for sale. All it'll cost you is $400 million dollars. The brainchild of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plane was supposed to make space travel more accessible and affordable.
Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.