Universe Today has surveyed the importance of studying impact craters, planetary surfaces, exoplanets, astrobiology, solar physics, and comets, and what these fantastic scientific fields can teach researchers and space fans regarding the search for life beyond Earth. Here, we will discuss how planetary atmospheres play a key role in better understanding our solar system and beyond, including why researchers study planetary atmospheres, the benefits and challenges, what planetary atmospheres can teach us about finding life beyond Earth, and how upcoming students can pursue studying planetary atmospheres. So, why is it so important to study planetary atmospheres?Continue reading “Planetary Atmospheres: Why study them? What can they teach us about finding life beyond Earth?”
There’s no getting around it: our Solar System’s gas giants all have big, conspicuous spots on their faces. These include Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, Saturn’s Great White Spot, Uranus’ Great Dark Spot, and Neptune’s Great Dark Spot. Far from blemishes or features that tarnish the planets’ natural beauty, these “spots” are caused by massive storms or other processes in the planets’ atmospheres. While they are extremely large by Earth standards, they are difficult to study by anything other than robotic probes that can get close to the planet.
Neptune’s Great Dark Spot was not discovered until NASA’s Voyager 2 probe flew past the planet in 1989 on its way to the edge of the Solar System. Decades later, scientists are still unsure how this storm originated or what mechanisms drive it today. Using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), a team of astronomers was able to observe the Great Dark Spot for the first time using a ground-based telescope. Their results provided the most detailed data on the spot to date and some interesting insights into the nature and origin of this mysterious feature.Continue reading “One of Neptune's Dark Spots Finally Seen From Earth”
As a gas giant (or ice giant), Neptune has no solid surface. In fact, the blue-green disc we have all seen in photographs over the years is actually a bit of an illusion. What we see is actually the tops of some very deep gas clouds, which in turn give way to water and other melted ices that lie over an approximately Earth-size core made of silicate rock and a nickel-iron mix. If a person were to attempt to stand on Neptune, they would sink through the gaseous layers.
As they descended, they would experience increased temperatures and pressures until they finally touched down on the solid core itself. That being said, Neptune does have a surface of sorts, (as with the other gas and ice giants) which is defined by astronomers as being the point in the atmosphere where the pressure reaches one bar. Because of this, Neptune’s surface is one of the most active and dynamic places in entire the Solar System.