Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Is Getting Taller As It Shrinks, Says Study

Posted: Mar 16 2018, 9:51am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 16 2018, 10:51am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is Getting Taller As it Shrinks, Says Study
Credit: NASA

The Great Red Spot's color has been deepening, too, becoming intensely orange than ever before

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been shrinking over the years and researchers suspect that it may take only a few years before it disappears completely. But surprisingly, a new study has found that the iconic feature of Jupiter is changing its shape too and is growing taller as it gets small.

“Storms are dynamic, and that's what we see with the Great Red Spot. It's constantly changing in size and shape, and its winds shift, as well.” Amy Simon, lead study author and an expert in planetary atmospheres at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt said.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a massive storm that has possibly existed for more than 350 years. However, it has not been monitored until 1830. In the 19th century, the Great Red Spot was more than three Earths wide. But in recent years, it appears to be diminishing in size, as measured by Earth-based telescopes and spacecraft.

When researchers combined the data from numerous NASA missions, including Voyager, Hubble, and Juno, they noticed visible changes in Red Spot's shape, color, size, and drift rate. They found that the storm has been getting smaller in size since 1878. However, one of its areas grew temporarily in 1920s. The new findings also indicate that the Great Red Spot is now drifting westward faster than before. Its color has been deepening, too, becoming intensely orange since 2014.

“There is evidence in the archived observations that the Great Red Spot has grown and shrunk over time,” said co-author Reta Beebe from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. “However, the storm is quite small now, and it has been a long time since it last grew.”

Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter. It has been churning for centuries, but little is known about the forces driving it. Researchers are also not sure why it has been reducing in recent years or whether it will disappear one day. However, the odds that Great Red Spot may be gone in the future are very high.

"If the trends we see in the Great Red Spot continue, the next five to 10 years could be very interesting from a dynamical point of view," said Goddard co-author Rick Cosentino. "We could see rapid changes in the storm's physical appearance and behavior, and maybe the red spot will end up being not so great after all."

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