Majestic Jupiter, the warrior elder brother of our solar system, puts his best side *. A new sharp image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the giant planet’s evolving wild weather – revealing both short- and long-range changes.
In the northern hemisphere, turbulent clouds could indicate a new vortex storm formation, while in the south, a long-lived storm appears under and about half the size of the Great Red Spot that slowly changes color from white to red.
If that wasn’t enough, on the left we also have a light bomb from the icy moon Europa, one of the goals of our search for extraterrestrial life.
The Great Red Spot is Jupiter’s most famous storm, and is the most striking feature of this new image. It’s a really massive storm, spinning counterclockwise, and we think it’s been around for at least 350 years.
In the past few decades, the Great Red Spot appears to be shrinking, a mystery that has been baffling scientists, but still huge; Its width is currently 15,800 kilometers (9,818 miles). That’s less than 16,350 kilometers (10,159 miles) in 2017, but still much larger than the Earth’s diameter of 12,742 kilometers (7,917.5 miles).
Recently, the shrinkage of the Great Red Spot has slowed, but not stopped completely.
Immediately below it is a storm called the Oval BA. It’s much smaller than the Great Red Spot, but totally gorgeous on its own. They formed in the late 1990s from three smaller storms that had been raging for 60 years, and have intensified since then.
Interestingly, she started her newly incorporated life as a white storm. Then, in 2006, scientists noticed that it was changing color – turning red like its older cousin. It wasn’t left that way, as you can see. Faded back to white over the course of a few years. But the new Hubble image reveals that white wasn’t always the same. The BA oval appears to be turning red again.
This would be a great thing to watch in the future, to determine if there is any rhyme or reason behind these color changes, but it will likely take several years before the pattern is highlighted.
In the northern hemisphere, at 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 discover, storms come and go on Jupiter all the time, but that looks different.
Small, dark cyclone blocks – rotating counterclockwise – follow behind, embedded in the shaft. We haven’t seen this before, and scientists believe it could be a long-lived fledgling storm, similar to the Great Red Spot and Oval BA in the south.
There is definitely a lot for planetary scientists to dive into as they try to understand Jupiter’s wild and unpredictable atmosphere. But it is also an amazing reminder of the beauty and splendor of our little corner of the universe.
*Each aspect is the best aspect of Jupiter.