Majestic Jupiter, our solar system’s warring big brother, puts its best side forward *. A sharp new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the wild, ever-growing weather of the giant planet – revealing both short- and long-term changes.
In the northern hemisphere, turbulent clouds could indicate the formation of a new swirling storm, while down south a persistent storm appeared just below and about half of the large red spot is slowly changing from white to red.
If that’s not enough, on the left we also have a photo boom from the ice moon Europa, one of the goals of our search for extraterrestrial life.
The large red spot is the most famous of Jupiter’s storms, and it is the most eye-catching feature in this new image. It̵
In recent decades, the big red spot seems to have shrunk, a mystery that has been puzzling scientists, but it’s still huge; it currently measures 15,800 kilometers (9,818 miles). It is down from 16,350 kilometers (10,159 miles) in 2017, but still significantly larger than the Earth’s 12,742 kilometers (7917.5 miles) diameter.
Recently, the shrinkage of the large red spot has diminished but not completely stopped.
Just below it is a storm called Oval BA. It’s much younger than Great Red Spot, but absolutely fascinating in itself. It was formed in the late 1990s from three minor storms that had raged for 60 years and have intensified since then.
Interestingly, it began its recently merged life as a white storm. Then, in 2006, researchers noticed that it changed color – became red as its larger cousin. It did not stay that way, as you can see. It faded back to white for a few years. But Hubble’s new image reveals that the white color was not permanent either. Oval BA seems to turn red again.
This will be a fascinating thing to look at in the future, to determine if there is any rhyme or reason behind these color changes, but it would probably take many years before a pattern can be discerned.
In the northern hemisphere, at the center of latitudes, a very bright white storm has appeared, moving about 560 kilometers per hour (350 miles per hour), behind a plume. As you can probably understand, storms on Jupiter come and go all the time, but this one looks different.
Small, dark lumps of cyclone – rotating counterclockwise – follow behind it, embedded in the plume. We have not seen these before, and scientists believe it may be an emerging long-lived storm, similar to the Great Red Spot and Oval BA in the south.
There is really a lot there for planetary scientists to sink their teeth into as they try to understand Jupiter’s wild and unpredictable atmosphere. But it is also an impressive reminder of the beauty and wonder of our little corner of the cosmos.
*Each page is Jupiter’s best page.