Biggest storm in the solar system will live to die another day: Astronomers claim that reports of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot demise are ‘greatly exaggerated’
- The storm, bigger than planet earth, has been visibly shrinking for 200 years
- Last spring observers assumed the worst when they saw ‘large red flakes’
- Now scientists believe the ‘flaking phenomenon’ is natural, with clouds hiding the true size of the storm
The biggest storm in solar system will live to die another day, according to new research.
Scientists have found reports Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is dying to be ‘greatly exaggerated.’
The storm, which is bigger than planet earth, has been visibly shrinking since it was first observed over 200 years ago.
Professor Philip Marcus at the University of California, Berkeley said: ‘The shrinking of the clouds of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter has been well documented with photographic evidence from the last decade.
The team says changes in temperature around the vortex sustain the storms’ energy levels and will ensure it continues to rage for centuries to come
‘The pictures from astronomers, both professionals and amateur, are not telling the whole story about the Great Red Spot.
Last spring observers assumed the worst when they saw ‘large red flakes’ being ripped from the red spot.
But the researchers believe the ‘flaking phenomenon’ is natural, while the visible clouds hide the true size and nature of the storm’s vortex.
Professor Marcus said: ‘I don’t think its fortunes were ever bad.
‘It’s more like Mark Twain’s comment: the reports about its death have been greatly exaggerated.
Scientists previously suggest the changes are the result of the storm’s shifting winds, which reach speeds of 425 miles per hour (680kph) as they push Jupiter’s crimson clouds counterclockwise around the planet’s southern hemisphere
‘There is no evidence the vortex itself has changed in size or intensity.’
The researchers believe the flakes were in fact caused by collisions with smaller cloud formations.
Professor Marcus said: ‘Smaller cloud formation bumped into the Great Red Spot, sometimes creating stagnation points, where the velocity abruptly stops, restarts and goes off in different directions.
‘These points indicate where an approaching cloud shattered and created the flakes that were observed by astronomers.’
The team says changes in temperature around the vortex sustain the storms’ energy levels and will ensure it continues to rage for centuries to come.
Professor Marcus said: ‘A secondary circulation, driven by the heating and cooling above and below the vortex, allows the Great Red Spot to continue to exist over the centuries, fighting off decay of its energy from viscosity, turbulence and heat loss.’
Jupiter is more than twice the size of all the other planets combined and made up of cold clouds of ammonia in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been orbiting the gas giant since it arrived in 2016, after five years of travelling through space.
Professor Marcus is due to present the latest findings at the Washington State Convention Centre in Seattle.
WHAT IS JUPITER’S GREAT RED SPOT?
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a giant oval of crimson-coloured clouds in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere that race counterclockwise around the oval’s perimeter.
The biggest storm in the solar system, it appears as a deep red orb surrounded by layers of pale yellow, orange and white.
Trapped between two jet streams, the Great Red Spot is an anticyclone swirling around a centre of high atmospheric pressure that makes it rotate in the opposite direction to hurricanes on Earth.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a giant oval of crimson-coloured clouds in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere that race counterclockwise around the oval’s perimeter
Winds inside the storm have been measured at several hundreds of miles per hour, with wind storms greater than any storm on Earth, Nasa astronomers have said.
In the late 1800s it was estimated to be about 35,000 miles (about 56,000 km) in diameter – wide enough for four Earths to fit side by side.
Measuring 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) wide as of April 3, 2017, the Great Red Spot is 1.3 times as wide as Earth and is gradually shrinking over time.