Jupiter's Giant Red Spot Isn't Just Shrinking—It's Getting Taller and Turning Orange

Wednesday, 14 March 2018 - 11:35AM
Astronomy
Space
Solar System
Wednesday, 14 March 2018 - 11:35AM
Jupiter's Giant Red Spot Isn't Just Shrinking—It's Getting Taller and Turning Orange
< >
Image credit: YouTube

Some things in our solar system never change. Saturn? It has those cool rings. Neptune? Has that cool blue color. Jupiter? Has a giant red spot, a hurricane-like storm larger than the entirety of Earth spinning on its surface.

 

Unfortunately, Jupiter's centuries-long storm may be coming to an end—it's definitely shrinking in size, and it's even changing color from red to orange. One strange development, though: the spot is getting taller.



We're still not sure why the Great Red Spot has lasted so long—it was first spotted in 1665, but it probably predates astronomers' observations. 

According to some scientific models, the giant storm that creates the Spot should have fizzled out after a few decades. We do know that it behaves somewhat similar to ocean vortices here on Earth, which are notorious at surviving longer than scientists predict they should. 



Though it hasn't dissolved yet, its diameter has been shrinking: at one point, the Spot would have been large enough to fit two to three Earths inside of it, but according to measurements taken this past April, it's already shrunk so much that it can only fit one. For reference, the Earth's diameter is about 8,000 miles, while the Great Red Spot's diameter is currently about 10,000 miles wide.



However, some of that lost volume seems to be rising instead of disappearing—according to Elizabeth Zubritsky of NASA: "It's almost like clay being shaped on a potter's wheel. As the wheel spins, an artist can transform a short, round lump into a tall, thin vase by pushing inward with his hands. The smaller he makes the base, the taller the vessel will grow." As for the change from red to orange, it's hypothesized that the chemicals that created the reddish color have risen, too, ending up higher in the atmosphere and becoming exposed to more UV radiation, which has caused them to become darker.



The Great Red Spot may be changing, but it looks like it may be too early to forecast its demise. Maybe future generations will see the day when the storm ends, but if Elon Musk has his way, we may be watching the Red Spot's final curtain from Mars.

Science
Science News
Astronomy
Space
Solar System
No