The Hubble Space telescope was recently used to capture some stunning, 4K HD images of Jupiter. While the images are sure to draw some “ohhhs” and “ahhhs”, some astronomers might be sad to know that the gas giant’s famous red spot is disappearing.
The space agency discovered more evidence that Jupiter’s massive red spot, which is actually a huge storm that has been raging for hundreds of years, is shrinking and weakening. Soon, the great red spot may be little more than an orange zit.
Despite being one of the most well studied phenomenon in our solar system, scientists still aren’t sure of what exactly the storm is. That’s because Jupiter’s thick layer of clouds make it difficult to see what’s going on underneath the top most layers.
Heck, astronomers still aren’t even sure if a rocky core, like Earth, lies at the center of Jupiter, and if so, how big it is. So far most of our studies of Jupiter have been skin deep.
Jupiter’s red storm has been observed for about 400 years, ever since astronomers began to use telescope to observe objects in space. Mind you, the storm could actually be much, much older, but it was only with the invention of telescopes that we could observe it.
PS- you can check out the images gathered by Hubble and compiled into a video, here:
While the red spot appears to have been shrinking over the last 100 or so years, it is still larger than the entire planet Earth. The most recent data confirms suspicions of amateur astronomers, who found that the storm was shrinking by nearly 1,000 kilometers per year, and that its wide oval shape was becoming more of a circle.
The amateur’s calculations have not been confirmed, but the general notion that the red spot is shrinking seems to be all but conclusive now. Towards the end of the 19th century, the red spot was estimated to be approximately 41,000 kilometers across, making it three times wider than Earth.
When the Voyager spacecraft passed by towards the end of the 1970’s, however, data found that the storm was just over 23,000 kilometers across. In 2009 the red spot was measured at 18,000 kilometers in width, and now the most recent data suggests that it’s only 16,500 kilometers across.
As already mentioned, the great “red” spot is no longer so red. The most recent images show it as more of a giant orange spot, suggesting that the composition if the storm is changing along with its size.
This conclusion was reached after NASA used the Hubble’s Wide Field 3 camera over the course of 10 hours. This allowed NASA to capture beautiful, high-definition images of Jupiter, which are proving to be quite valuable at drumming up publicity.
So if you happen to want to get a glimpse of the storm with your own telescope, you’d better do so quickly. While the storm will likely be around for some years, if current trends continue, it will grow less and less impressive, and harder to see.