The Hubble Space telescope has been used to zoom in on Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet. While the images captured were nothing short of beautiful, scientists also found that the planet’s massive red spot storm is continuing to shrink and weaken.
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The storm has shrunk by at least 150 miles, and is estimated to have lost at least half its width over the last hundred years or so. Further, the intensity of the colors in the storm are also weakening.
The images provided some of the best data since the Voyager spacecraft observed the planet up close and personal back in 1979.
It is unknown when, if ever, the red spot will cease to exist, but the latest images do suggest that its days may be numbered. In 2014, researchers found that the red spot had shrunk to its smallest size ever. The recent images taken from Hubble suggest that the storm is continuing to shrink.
Whether or not the red spot is simply going through a sort of downturn, or permanently losing strength remains unknown, but this will certainly become an interesting point of research for the future.
Despite years of study, NASA still labels the red spot as a mystery, being not fully sure of what it is. It is believed that the red spot is roughly 300 years old as astronomers have noticed a large dot for centuries, though potentially they were looking at another storm.
Whatever the red spot might be, it’s also massive, the atmospheric system is actually larger than the planet Earth. The red spot is considered a storm of sorts, with winds racing as fast as 400 miles per hour.
The red spot is especially perplexing because Jupiter’s thick atmosphere blocks out the views of anything beneath. This makes it more difficult for researchers to get to the root of the problem.
Jupiter itself is a massive planet, with its diameter being 11 times that of Earth, and its volume being 1,300 times greater. Unlike the Earth, however, much of Jupiter’s volume is taken up by gases, rather than solid materials. So while the gas giant is over 300 times as massive as our planet, it is only 25 percent as dense.
Researchers believe that storms can last for centuries on Jupiter because the lack of a large, solid surface like Earth means there is nothing to slow the storm down.
The Hubble’s images are among the highest definition images ever captured, and are the first images to show the full rotation.
Some Jupiter Fast Facts
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun, and is by far the largest planet in our solar system. The planet is composed mostly of hydrogen, but is one quarter helium. Scientists believe that some sort of rocky, or at least solid core might rest at the center of the planet.
The Pioneer, Voyager, and Galileo probes have all explored Jupiter to one extent or another. Jupiter is named after the Roman equivalent of Zeus, the King of the Gods in ancient Greece.