A New Red Spot on Jupiter
Photography and Film
"Since the mid-1600s, astronomers have marveled at changing spots and bands seen telescopically on the planet Jupiter.
Larger, better telescopes revealed them to be dynamic features in Jupiterâ€™s dense atmosphere. The bands mark zones of
prevailing winds, somewhat analogous to Earthâ€™s jet streams. The spots are cyclonic storms that rage along the turbulent
boundaries of the jet streams. The largest of these, dubbed the Great Red Spot (GRS), is a cold, high pressure area 2â€“3
times wider than planet Earth. Its winds travel at approximately 400 miles per hourâ€”far surpassing the 155 miles per
hour wind speed of Earthâ€™s own Category 5 hurricanes.
In the 1930s, astronomers documented the collapse of a white jet stream just south of the GRS that resulted in the creation
of three elongated features. During the next decade, astronomers watched these features morph into three distinct white
cyclonic storms. In 1998, these storms merged together to form one giant white storm. Its wind speeds now rival those of
the GRS and it has grown to nearly half its size. Then, abruptly in 2006â€”for reasons still not completely understoodâ€”that
storm turned red. Astronomers named it â€œRed Spot Jr,â€ or more formally, â€œOval BA.â€
In 2008, yet another red spot developed. Named â€œBaby Red Spot,â€ or â€œ2008 Oval 2,â€ this new storm was just a fraction of
the size of the other two red spots. And unlike the others, its life span would be shortâ€”as it would be caught and absorbed
within months by the anticyclonic spin of the GRS.
All three red spots were imaged in detail using Hubble, by two teams of astronomers led by Imke de Pater of the University
of California, Berkeley and Amy Simon-Miller of NASAâ€™s Goddard Space Flight Center. Hubbleâ€™s first image of 2008 Oval
2 was taken in May 2008. The spot was located just to the west of the GRS and was at the same basic latitude. Oval BA
was located between the two, although at a lower latitude."
- Description from HubbleSite. Image courtesy of NASA.
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Last edited 10/13/2014 1:27:00 PM