August 9, 2008

Rumble of the Red Spots

You may be familiar with the Great Red Spot, the huge storm brewing in the atmosphere of Jupiter. It is so large, that it can contain two or three Earths within itself! However, you may not know that the Great Red Spot is not alone.

The Red Spots

Three white storms came together to form a bigger storm, called Oval BA, in 2000 on Jupiter. In August 2005, Oval BA started to turn red, and right now is getting more red with time. Because of its color and similarity to the Great Red Spot, this red spot is now being called Red Spot Jr. It has passed by the Great Red Spot now twice. But, it doesn't just end there!

There was also a third red spot on Jupiter, discovered in May, nicknamed Baby Red Spot. However, it has just recently met its demise.

The Death of Baby Red Spot

As shown in the recent (late June/early July) picture of Jupiter by the Hubble Space Telescope above, Baby Red Spot met up with the Great Red Spot. And it was not a happy meeting. The small spot got stuck in the Great Red Spot's anticyclonic (counter-clockwise) spin, and all that came out was a pale and deformed spot. Experts think that this remaining spot will get sucked back into the Great Red Spot again.

What This All Means

The show of power by the Great Red Spot demonstrates its longevity. The recent show of events can tell us why this huge storm on Jupiter has lasted so long. It is known to be at least 178 years old, most likely older, and this was just an example of one of the reasons the Great Red Spot has reached this age.

The animation below of the three pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows the process by which the Great Red Spot has demolished Baby Red Spot. Also notice Red Spot Jr. passing underneath, unscathed.

Image and Video: NASA

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