Jupiter's Great Red Spot May Be Dying

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 - 10:40AM
Space
Tuesday, 12 December 2017 - 10:40AM
Jupiter's Great Red Spot May Be Dying
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Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons
"The closer you get to Jupiter, the weirder it gets."

That recent quote from NASA's Heidi Becker only begins to scratch the surface of everything we continue to learn about the mysterious giant planet. Now, based a new groundbreaking discovery made by NASA's Juno probe, it looks like Jupiter's Great Red Spot may be dying. 
 
Unfortunately for Jupiter's signature storm, its future may not be as "great."

Since its first dedicated monitoring began in the 1830s, the patch of reddish clouds in the southern end of the Jovian atmosphere that's 1.3 times the width of Earth, and spins in a counterclockwise direction with winds that peak at approximately 400 mph, has shrunk from the size of two Earths to its current girth.

In fact, when NASA's iconic Voyager 2 mission passed by Jupiter in 1979, the GR Spot was still twice Earth's diameter, significantly greater than it is now.

It also looks like the Great Red Spot is also a Pretty Deep Spot as well.
 
NASA's Juno spacecraft, during its July 2017 pass over Jupiter's Great Red Spot revealed that the disturbance dips far below the surface of the giant gas planet.

Juno has determined that the Great Red Spot, which has been spinning for at least 150 years, also reaches down about 200 miles. The determination was made via the spacecraft's Microwave Radiometer (MWR). 

"Juno's Microwave Radiometer has the unique capability to peer deep below Jupiter's clouds…It is proving to be an excellent instrument to help us get to the bottom of what makes the Great Red Spot so great," said Michael Janssen, a senior research scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 
 
"Juno found that the Great Red Spot's roots go 50 to 100 times deeper than Earth's oceans and are warmer at the base than they are at the top…Winds are associated with differences in temperature, and the warmth of the spot's base explains the ferocious winds we see at the top of the atmosphere," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Professor of Planetary Science at Caltech.

  
On the other hand, Juno has picked up on a new radiation zone, sitting above the Jovian atmosphere, packing energetic oxygen, sulfur and hydrogen ions that are moving at close to light speed.
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Jupiter's Great Red Spot May Be Dying
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