March 6, 2016

Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Great Red Spot

The Great Red Spot is a persistent anticyclonic storm on the planet Jupiter, 22° south of the equator, which has lasted for at least 186 years and possibly as long as 351 years or more. The storm is large enough to be visible through Earth-based telescopes. It was probably first observed by Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who described it around 1665. The spot has been noticeably red at times throughout its observed history, yet has not been appreciably red in the visible spectrum since a rather brief period in the mid 1970s.

Storms such as this are not uncommon within the turbulent atmospheres of gas giants. Jupiter also has white ovals and brown ovals, which are lesser unnamed storms. White ovals tend to consist of relatively cool clouds within the upper atmosphere. Brown ovals are warmer and located within the "normal cloud layer". Such storms can last hours or centuries.

Before the Voyager missions, astronomers were highly uncertain of the Red Spot's nature. Many believed it to be a solid or liquid feature on Jupiter's surface.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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