Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is more than a massive hurricane that’s been going on since mankind first observed the gaseous giant in detail. The superstorm is practically a planetary trademark, a surface detail that anyone can recognize at first glance. Hubble Space Telescope takes pictures of the solar system’s planets on a regular basis and to everyone’s surprise, astronomers included, Jupiter’s superstorm is shrinking fast.
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter has decreased by about 150 miles on the extended axis since the measurements made in 2014. Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, said that whenever scientists take a close look at Jupiter, they get hints that something is happening around there. And if you think about it, anything that happens on Jupiter must be colossal — including an anticyclonic storm twice the size of Earth getting, well…smaller.
For the Jovian hurricane, shrinking is actually an accelerating phase that’s happening a lot faster than scientists initially thought. The storm is intensifying its orange color spectrum at the same time decreasing its speed and becoming rounder. Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory believes that the Great Red Spot is one of the main reasons we think of Jupiter as a gas giant, but in fact the planet is much more than just a titanic ocean of hydrogen and helium.
The planet emits more radiation than it receives from the Sun, due to an internal heat source responsible for most of the extreme weather, possibly even for the Great Red Spot. Then there’s the whole massive gravity thing going on, which contracts matter in the deeper layers until the pressure reaches approximately 3 million atmospheres. Quite impressive for a celestial object with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun.
Jupiter’s dynamic atmosphere developed yet another phenomenon: a wave structure, a particularity of baroclinic conditions, which may very well signal the birth of a new cyclone. Yes, it sounds hard to believe, but it is possible that the 350 years old superstorm first observed in 1664-1655 by Robert Hooke and Gian-Dominique Cassini will one day come to a halt so that another raging weather occurrence can take its place on the surface of this amazing planet.
Image source: www.wikipedia.org