Majestic Jupiter, the warlike big brother of our Solar System, is bringing its best side to the table *. A sharp new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the giant planet’s wild and ever-changing weather, revealing both short- and long-term changes.
In the northern hemisphere, turbulent clouds could indicate the formation of a new swirling storm, while in the south, a long-lasting storm just below and about half of the Great Red Spot appears to slowly change color from white to red.
If that’s not enough, on the left we also have a photo bomb of the ice moon Europa, one of the targets of our search for extraterrestrial life.
The Great Red Spot is the most famous of Jupiter̵
In recent decades, the Great Red Spot appears to have shrunk, a mystery that has perplexed scientists, but is still huge; it currently measures 15,800 kilometers (9,818 miles) in diameter. It is down from 16,350 kilometers (10,159 miles) in 2017, but still significantly larger than the diameter of Earth’s 12,742 kilometers (7,917.5 miles).
Recently, the shrinking of the Great Red Spot has slowed, but not entirely stopped.
Just below is a storm called Oval BA. It is much younger than the Great Red Spot, but in itself absolutely fascinating. It formed in the late 1990s from three minor storms that raged for 60 years and has escalated ever since.
Interestingly, he started his life just melted as a white storm. Then, in 2006, scientists noticed that it was changing color, turning red like its bigger cousin. It didn’t stay that way, as you can see. It has turned white over the course of a few years. But the new Hubble image reveals that even the white coloring was not permanent. The BA oval appears to turn red again.
This will be a fascinating thing to look at in the future, to determine if there is any rhyme or reason behind these color changes, but it will likely take many years before a pattern can be discerned.
In the Northern Hemisphere, in the mid-latitudes, a very bright white storm appeared, traveling at about 560 kilometers per hour (350 miles per hour), followed by a plume. As you can probably understand, storms on Jupiter come and go all the time, but this one looks different.
Small dark cyclonic clumps, rotating counterclockwise, follow it, embedded in the plume. We’ve never seen them before and scientists think it could be a rising storm of long duration, similar to the Great Red Spot and Oval BA in the south.
There is certainly plenty for planetary scientists to sink their teeth into as they try to understand Jupiter’s wild and unpredictable atmosphere. But it is also a majestic reminder of the beauty and wonder of our little corner of the cosmos.
*Each side is the best side of Jupiter.