- Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a giant storm system, the largest in the Solar System
- NASA scientists analyze more than a decade of observations of red spots
- They found that the wind at the outer edges is getting stronger with each passing year.
- Conversely, the winds at the center of the Great Red Spot seem to be slowing
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is intensifying, according to NASA scientists who say winds are now reaching 400 mph around the edge of the famous storm.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, analyzed the Hubble Space Telescope’s regular ‘hurricane reports’ and found that winds in the ‘high-speed ring’ at the edge of the storm have increased by eight percent since 2009.
In contrast, near the innermost region of the Red Spot, winds are moving very slowly, ‘as if someone is sluggishly running through the sun on a Sunday afternoon,’ NASA said.
Scientists are still unclear what the changing wind speed actually means for the Great Red Spot, which is even larger than Earth.
‘It’s difficult to diagnose, because Hubble can’t see the storm floor very well. Anything below a cloud top is invisible in the data,’ explained researcher Michael Wong.
‘But it is an interesting piece of data that could help us understand what fuels the Great Red Spot and how it retains energy.’
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By analyzing images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from 2009 to 2020, researchers found that the average wind speed within the boundaries of the Great Red Spot, determined by the outer green circle, increased by 8 percent.
Annual observations of the Solar System’s largest planet by the Hubble Space Telescope over the past decade have allowed NASA to discover
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet in our solar system.
It is a giant ball of gas composed mostly of hydrogen and helium along with some heavy elements.
“Jupiter’s familiar stripes and vortices are actually cold, airy clouds of ammonia and water, floating in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium,” NASA said.
‘Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm bigger than Earth that has raged for hundreds of years.’
This planet is twice as large as all the other planets, and the Great Red Spot alone is large enough to fit the entire Earth inside.
One spacecraft – NASA’s Juno orbiter – is currently exploring this vast world.
Facts & Figures
distance from the sun: 750 million km
orbital time: Twelve years
surface area: 61.42 billion km²
RADIUS: 69,911 km
Mass: 1.898 × 10^27 kg (317.8 m⊕)
day length: 0d 9h 56m
moon: 53 with formal designations; innumerable additional moonlights
Humans have been observing this massive storm system for more than 150 years, with detailed, close-up measurements from spacecraft and telescopes now offering the opportunity to examine wind speeds in different regions of the red spot.
To better analyze Hubble’s data, study author Michael Wong of the University of California, Berkeley, developed a new data analysis approach.
They used software to track tens to hundreds of thousands of wind vectors, including direction and speed, each time Hubble observed Jupiter.
‘It gave me a much more consistent set of velocity measurements,’ Wong explained.
‘I also ran a battery of statistical tests to confirm whether it was fair to call it an increase in wind speed. this is.’
Wong said it’s hard to determine what the increase in speed means because Hubble can’t see the storm’s floor very well.
‘When I initially saw the results, I asked “Does this make sense?” No one has ever seen it before,’ Wong said.
‘But this is something that only Hubble can do.
‘Hubble’s longevity and ongoing observations make this revelation possible.’
To measure and track major storms on Earth, we have a fleet of Earth-orbiting satellites and airplanes that monitor every movement from above in real time.
Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center explained, ‘Since we don’t have a hurricane chaser aircraft on Jupiter, we can’t continuously measure winds.
‘Hubble is the only telescope with the kind of temporal coverage and spatial resolution that can capture Jupiter’s winds in this detail.’
The actual changes are no more than 11 years of measurement, working out to an increase of less than 1.6mph per Earth year of observation.
Simon said, ‘We’re talking about such a small change that if you didn’t have eleven years of Hubble data, we wouldn’t have known it had happened.
However, she added: ‘With Hubble we have the precision we need to find a trend.’
Hubble’s ongoing monitoring allows researchers to revisit and analyze its data as they keep adding to it each year.
Massive storm-red clouds spin counterclockwise at more than 400 miles per hour—and the vortex is bigger than Earth itself
In contrast, near the innermost region of the Red Spot, the winds are moving very slowly, ‘as if someone is sluggishly running through the sun on a Sunday afternoon,’ NASA said.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: The ‘King’ of Storms
The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is a high pressure area on the planet.
It is an anticyclonic storm that is the largest in the Solar System.
NASA found that located 22 degrees south of Jupiter’s equator, it produces wind speeds of up to 400 mph.
The strongest winds in the Great Red Spot are on the edge of the storm.
Observations from 1665 to 1713 are considered to be of the same storm.
If so, it has been flowing for more than 350 years.
It was next observed in September 1831, with 60 recorded observations between then and 1878, when continuous observations began.
The smallest features that Hubble can reveal in a hurricane are a mere 105 miles across—nearly twice the length of the state of Rhode Island.
‘We find that…