Jupiter's Great Red Spot Might Be an Extra Heat Source

Wednesday, 27 July 2016 - 5:20PM
Solar System
Wednesday, 27 July 2016 - 5:20PM
Jupiter's Great Red Spot Might Be an Extra Heat Source
Back in the late seventies, the Voyager missions revealed that Jupiter's visually striking "Great Red Spot" was actually a perpetual anticyclonic storm, which has lasted for at least 186 years. But now, researchers have found evidence that the storm may have ramifications for the entire planet, as it might be a secret heat source.

For years, astronomers have puzzled over Jupiter's inexplicably hot atmosphere, which has comparable temperatures to Earth's despite being much further from the Sun. Some had speculated that the Great Red Spot might be a source of heat, but in a new study published in Nature, researchers have found the first evidence for that hypothesis.

For the study, the researchers mapped the infrared emissions from every part of the planet, essentially constructing a "heat map" of Jupiter. They found that the atmosphere above the Great Red Spot is hundreds of degrees hotter than anywhere on the planet. This is much hotter than any models of solar heating can explain, and the researchers claim that by process of elimination for other heat sources, they have determined that the heat comes from below, from the Great Red Spot itself.

Further study is still needed to determine whether we can trust these results, and conclude that the Red Spot is the cause of Jupiter's unusually high temperatures. Most significantly, the mechanism by which the Red Spot generates heat is not fully understood yet, although the researchers postulate that the heating of the upper atmosphere is driven by wave heating from below, the result of upward-moving acoustic or gravity waves.

Via Gizmodo

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