Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Shrinks and Grows


Jupiter is the largest and
oldest planet in our solar system. Its history spans 4.5
billion years. This gas giant is made of the same elements as a
star, but it did not grow massive enough to ignite.
Jupiter’s appearance is the result of its swirling interior
of gases and liquids – producing a tapestry of colorful cloud
bands as well as the iconic Great Red Spot. The Great Red Spot is a gigantic
storm. It’s an anticyclone, and with no land mass on the
planet to slow it down, the Great Red Spot has
raged for over a century. But scientists studying the spot
have noticed that it has been changing over time. The color is
deepening, and it’s actually shrinking and getting rounder.
Those studying it expected to therefore see the wind speeds
inside the Great Red Spot increasing as the storm shrinks
– like an ice skater who spins faster as she pulls in her arms.
But this isn’t the case. Data reveals the storm isn’t
spinning faster, it’s actually getting taller. You can think of
it like working with pottery. As the wide lump of clay spins,
forces within are driving it taller. So from our
perspective, looking down on the clouds, we see the spot
getting smaller and rounder. The Great Red Spot used to be
big enough to fit three Earths. Now, it’s just a little over
one. These discoveries were made by
analyzing data from numerous NASA missions, including
Voyager, Hubble, and most recently, Juno. And through more
investigations, scientists hope to unlock more secrets of the
mysterious Great Red Spot. [beeping]

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