Enough about the Great Red Spot, this giant storm on Neptune is almost as big as Earth

We love Juno's stunning new photos of Jupiter's Great Red Spot as much as anyone, but when it comes to giant storms, the Great Red Spot has some stiff competition.

Neptune is a good breeding ground for storms because its atmosphere is incredibly windy — its winds can whip at nine times the strength of Earth's peak winds and three times the strength of Jupiter's. The Voyager 2 spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope have photographed a range of "Great Dark Spots" growing and shrinking on the planet.

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Images from NASA on the largest batch of Earth-size, habitable zone planets
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This chart shows, on the top row, artist concepts of the seven planets of TRAPPIST-1 with their orbital periods, distances from their star, radii and masses as compared to those of Earth. On the bottom row, the same numbers are displayed for the bodies of our inner solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The TRAPPIST-1 planets orbit their star extremely closely, with periods ranging from 1.5 to only about 20 days. This is much shorter than the period of Mercury, which orbits our sun in about 88 days.
This poster imagines what a trip to TRAPPIST-1e might be like.
This artist's concept allows us to imagine what it would be like to stand on the surface of the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f, located in the TRAPPIST-1 system in the constellation Aquarius.
This data plot shows infrared observations by NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope of a system of seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultracool dwarf star. Over 21 days, Spitzer measured the drop in light as each planet passed in front of the star. Spitzer was able to identify a total of seven rocky worlds, including three in the habitable zone where liquid water might be found.
The TRAPPIST-1 system contains a total of seven planets, all around the size of Earth. Three of them -- TRAPPIST-1e, f and g -- dwell in their star’s so-called “habitable zone.” The habitable zone, or Goldilocks zone, is a band around every star (shown here in green) where astronomers have calculated that temperatures are just right -- not too hot, not too cold -- for liquid water to pool on the surface of an Earth-like world. 

This artist's concept appeared on the February 23rd, 2017 cover of the journal Nature announcing that the TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. Any of these planets could have liquid water on them. Planets that are farther from the star are more likely to have significant amounts of ice, especially on the side that faces away from the star.

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But now, scientists have spotted an unusually large cluster of bright clouds on Neptune's surface. The storm is a little smaller than Earth, at more than 5,500 miles across. And while the other storms spotted on Neptune have all been in the mid-latitudes, this one is surprisingly close to the planet's equator.

The new, huge storm is marked in the upper left corner, then grew brighter by July 2.Source: N. Molter/I. De Pater, UC Berkeley & C. Alvarez, W. M. Keck Observatory

Ned Molter, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, spotted the storm from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. But finding an incredible feature wasn't even part of the plan: He and his adviser were there to develop protocols for observing during twilight, when astronomers are usually waiting for the sky to darken completely.

For such a large storm to stick together for a week, there has to be something holding it together. The scientists think that might be a dark vortex in Neptune's lower atmosphere, which would funnel gas up to cool and form methane clouds. It could also be tied to Neptune's decades-long seasons during its 165-year orbit around the sun.

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The camera was pointing toward SATURN-RINGS, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The camera was pointing toward SATURN-RINGS, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. 

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The camera was pointing toward SATURN-RINGS, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. 

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The camera was pointing toward SATURN-RINGS, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. 

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The camera was pointing toward SATURN-RINGS, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. 

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The camera was pointing toward SATURN-RINGS, and the image was taken using the CL1 and GRN filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. 

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The camera was pointing toward SATURN-RINGS, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. 

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

The camera was pointing toward SATURN-RINGS, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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