Astronomers are pretty excited about the big rager they just heard about. You’ll have to bring your own red Solo cups, though, because there are no Costco stores near Neptune’s equator. Scientists working at the Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii, just spotted the super storm raging across the distant planet. The storm is massive, spanning roughly 5,600 miles (9,000 km), aka almost the size of Earth, but the scientists don’t think its girth is its most interesting trait. Instead, they think the storm’s location is “extremely surprising.” The storm also appeared to get “much brighter” between June 26 and July 2, according to a press release issued by the Keck Observatory this week.
“Normally, this area is really quiet and we only see bright clouds in the mid-latitude bands, so to have such an enormous cloud sitting right at the equator is spectacular,” says Ned Molter, the UC Berkeley grad student who spotted the storm complex in an announcement. His advisor, Imke de Pater, initially thought it was the Northern Cloud Complex spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope back in 1994, but they’ve now decided that this is a different cloud complex. “This big vortex is sitting in a region where the air, overall, is subsiding rather than rising,” said de Pater. “Moreover, a long-lasting vortex right at the equator would be hard to explain physically.”
For now, they’ll just continue investigating the colossal rager, which is probably the astronomy equivalent of putting Neptune on double secret probation.