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Analysis of Neptune's 2017 bright equatorial storm

Abstract : We report the discovery of a large ( ∼ 8500 km diameter) infrared-bright storm at Neptune's equator in June 2017. We tracked the storm over a period of 7 months with high-cadence infrared snapshot imaging, carried out on 14 nights at the 10 m Keck II telescope and 17 nights at the Shane 120 inch reflector at Lick Observatory. The cloud feature was larger and more persistent than any equatorial clouds seen before on Neptune, remaining intermittently active from at least 10 June to 31 December 2017. Our Keck and Lick observations were augmented by very high-cadence images from the amateur community, which permitted the determination of accurate drift rates for the cloud feature. Its zonal drift speed was variable from 10 June to at least 25 July, but remained a constant 237.4 ± 0.2 m s-1 from 30 September until at least 15 November. The pressure of the cloud top was determined from radiative transfer calculations to be 0.3-0.6 bar; this value remained constant over the course of the observations. Multiple cloud break-up events, in which a bright cloud band wrapped around Neptune's equator, were observed over the course of our observations. No "dark spot" vortices were seen near the equator in HST imaging on 6 and 7 October. The size and pressure of the storm are consistent with moist convection or a planetary-scale wave as the energy source of convective upwelling, but more modeling is required to determine the driver of this equatorial disturbance as well as the triggers for and dynamics of the observed cloud break-up events.
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Submitted on : Friday, June 24, 2022 - 1:39:21 PM
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Edward Molter, Imke de Pater, Statia Luszcz-Cook, Ricardo Hueso, Joshua Tollefson, et al.. Analysis of Neptune's 2017 bright equatorial storm. Icarus, 2019, 321, pp.324-345. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2018.11.018⟩. ⟨insu-03703890⟩



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