Storms on Jupiter

Jupiter is now well placed in the sky to observe, visible in the east as the Sun sets in the constellation Sagittarius. When we observed with our naked eyes, we see a very bright point of light. When see through binoculars, we can easily spot its moon and with big enough telescopes, we can spot a storm over 300 years old, called the Great Red Spot.

The Great Red Spot may look small on Jupiter, but remember, Jupiter is HUGE, so relatively it looks small. In reality, it is so big that it can fit in two Earth!

In year 2000, three smaller storms on Jupiter merged and grow. Two years ago this previously white storm turned red and became the same colour as the Great Red Spot. This smaller storm is nicknamed Red Spot Jr. or Oval BA, roughly the size of Earth.

And two months ago, a previously white oval-shaped storm changed its colour to red indicates its swirling storm clouds are rising to heights like the clouds of the Great Red Spot. One possible explanation of the change of colour is that the storm is so powerful that it dredges material from deep beneath Jupiter’s cloud tops and lifts it to higher altitudes where solar ultraviolet radiation – via some unknown chemical reaction – produces the familiar brick colour.

Since this new red spot is much smaller than its two bigger brothers above, it was nicknamed “Baby Red Spot”.

Jupiter's Red Spots. Click to enlarge.

Unfortunately for Baby Red Spot, it was born at the wrong place. Unlike its second brother Red Spot Jr. which is located at quite a safe distance below the monstrous Great Red Spot, Baby Red Spot is in the same latitudinal band as the Great Red Spot.

This means that one of these days, Baby Red Spot is going to encounter the Great Red Spot.

And that day is here now…

Time Series of Jupiter Red Spot. Click to enlarge.

This sequence of Hubble’s images shows the meeting of Red Spot Jr. and Baby Red Spot with Great Red Spot. For Red Spot Jr., this is the second time it skirted past its big brother apparently unscathed.

But for the Baby, it seems to be the end… the baby gets too close to its big brother and was “eaten up”! It is caught up in the anticyclonic spin of the Great Red Spot and is gone for good. In the final frame the Baby is deformed and pale in colour and has been spun to the right (east) of the Great Red Spot.

So this may be how the monstrous brother sustained for centuries… by eating up others if they ever wander too close.

Source: HubbleSite NewsCenter


~ by thChieh on July 25, 2008.

2 Responses to “Storms on Jupiter”

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