Previous observations suggested that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was disappearing. Researchers now say there is no evidence that the mega-storm is dying.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is the most powerful storm in the solar system.
A 2018 NASA study found that the red spot has contracted since 1878.
Observations from the 1800s indicated that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was once four times larger than Earth. But now, according to NASA, the storm can fit just a little more than one Earth inside it.
However, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who have been studying the storm’s behavior now say Jupiter’s Great Red Spot storm isn’t dying anytime soon.
“I don’t think its fortunes were ever bad,” Philip Marcus, a professor of fluid dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement released by the society. “It’s more like Mark Twain’s comment: The reports about the storm’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”
The Great Red Spot lies about 22 degrees south of the planet’s equator. But because it’s located in the southern hemisphere, it rotates counter-clockwise.
Earlier this year, both professional and amateur astronomers spotted large red flakes spinning off from the giant storm. This raised fears that the planet’s Great Red Spot might be showing signs of disappearing.
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But Marcus said observers don’t see the storm directly, only the visible clouds above it.
“I was skeptical that measuring clouds tells you about the underlying engine or vortex,” he said. “If one were to study climate change on Earth, you want to take a look at the clouds because they’re indicating something, but there’s a lot more going on than what’s in the clouds.”
Marcus and his colleagues suggest that the “flaking” observed around the storm is a natural consequence of storms interacting, rather than an indication that the Great Red Spot storm is itself weakening.
As a smaller anti-clockwise spinning storm approaches the Great Red Spot, a point of stagnation form. Then, when a smaller storm spinning the same direction as the monster storm approaches, its clouds shatter and flake away in a reddish extension, said Marcus.
Though the storm’s appearance has changed in the past decade, particularly in the movement of the spot’s clouds, the researchers found no evidence that the underlying vortex’s size or intensity has changed.
Marcus said he expects that the heating and cooling patterns around the vortex will continue to fuel the Spot.
Marcus and his colleagues presented their research Monday at the 72nd annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Seattle.