In any other circumstance, a huge, red, festering blemish would be a bad thing but not for the planet Jupiter. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been a defining characteristic of the planet since man began looking at the stars through bamboo shoots. But that may be about to change. NASA says that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is shrinking in size faster than ever and could disappear altogether within 20 years.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is an Earth-sized storm raging on the gas giant’s surface. Scientists have known about the red spot since at least 1831 (and possibly as early as 1665). The storm rotates differently than the planet’s atmosphere and is believed to have traveled around the planet several times during its recorded history.
For several years, NASA had noticed that the Great Red Spot was shrinking but now something in Jupiter’s atmosphere has changed and the spot is growing smaller at a rate much faster than ever before. Scientists calculate that the storm is shrinking by almost two miles per day. At this rate, the Great Red Spot could disappear altogether within as little as 17 years.
[Editor note to Geek Slop: So, they don’t run out and try it, please explain to the kids that looking through a bamboo shoot is dangerous and a good way to poke out an eye. Besides, with regards to using a bamboo shoot as a primitive telescope – well, it doesn’t work anyway].
More about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot
Jupiter’s Red Spot is a persistent high-pressure region in the atmosphere of Jupiter, producing an anticyclonic storm, the largest in the Solar System, 22 degrees south of the planet’s equator. It is located in the southern hemisphere of Jupiter, and it is an oval-shaped feature that is approximately 12,000 kilometers wide.
The Red Spot is thought to have been observed even before systematic telescopic observations began. It was first observed by the English astronomer Robert Hooke in 1664 and has been monitored since 1830. The Red Spot has been observed to vary in size and color over the years but has remained a prominent feature of Jupiter’s atmosphere.
The color of the Red Spot is due to the presence of complex organic molecules, which are thought to be responsible for the reddish-brown coloration. It is believed that these molecules are formed as a result of the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun breaking down methane in Jupiter’s atmosphere.
The cause of the Red Spot’s longevity is still a matter of scientific debate, but it is thought to be due to the high pressure and stable atmospheric conditions in the region. The Red Spot is also believed to be a source of heat, contributing to the warming of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.