Clouds Disappearing on Neptune Associated with Solar Cycle

Researchers claim to have found further evidence connecting Neptune’s cloud activity to changes in the planet’s atmosphere brought on by the sun. The proof, according to researchers, is based on data gathered over almost 30 years by multiple telescopes. The Hubble Space Telescope, which is run by NASA, the American space agency, as well as the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the Lick Observatory in California, all collected data. As they studied the cloud data, astronomers noted changes in Neptune’s atmosphere. The alterations, the researchers discovered, corresponded to the sun’s regular cycle. The solar cycle, which is the name for each natural cycle, lasts roughly 11 years.


The magnetic field of the sun entirely reverses throughout this cycle. This indicates a rotation of the sun’s north and south magnetic poles. Then, eleven more years later, they reverse. There is a significant spike in solar activity prior to the flip. Strong assemblages of solar particles can be propelled through space in this way. According to the scientists analyzing the data from the telescope, Neptune peaked in brightness in 2002 and then began to fade in 2007. In 2015, the planet started to shine once more, but in 2020, it darkened to the lowest point ever recorded. The measurements, according to the study, also revealed that starting in 2019, Neptune lost almost all of its clouds.


The study’s principal author is UC Berkeley astronomy professor Imke de Pater, who is now retired. In a statement, she expressed surprise at how fast clouds vanished from Neptune. She mentioned that “within a few months,” cloud activity had dramatically decreased. “The photos we took this past June showed the clouds haven’t returned to their former levels, even four years later,” Erandi Chavez stated. She participated in the study while attending UC Berkeley and is currently a student at Harvard University’s Center for Astrophysics. Chavez remarked, “This is really exciting and unexpected.” “Neptune’s previous period of low cloud activity was not nearly as dramatic and prolonged,” she said, pointing out that the finding was uncommon.



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