Will a giant storm on Jupiter ever go away?

Will a giant storm on Jupiter ever go away? — Edgar Nuttall, age 5, Brisbane

Hello Edgar! Thanks for such an exquisite query.

Jupiter is the biggest planet in our photo voltaic neighborhood, and has a really wild season. Now we have stunning photos of Jupiter displaying the striped, storm clouds protecting the whole planet.

Really, Jupiter is roofed with storms. Some are solely small, however some are so massive that they’ll cowl the whole earth.

The most important of those storms is the well-known Nice Crimson Spot – which I see you already know. This place is definitely a cyclone, much like the storms and cyclones which have come right here on Earth.

A close-up image of Jupiter showing the Great Red Spot.
The Nice Crimson Spot is a much bigger storm than Earth!

It’s manufactured from highly effective winds blowing in circles, swirling like tea in a cup if you shake it. These winds are 5 occasions stronger than any hurricane on Earth.

The Nice Crimson Spot is like Jupiter’s grandfather of storms. It has been round for a few years – however lately we have seen it get smaller.

Does this imply it will likely be gone sooner or later? Nicely, not essential.

stormy streaks

Jupiter appears to be like like a large, striped ball that spins very quick. Gentle coloured streaks are clouds with rising air, whereas darkish streaks are clouds which are sinking.

While you take a look at the darkish and lightweight stripes subsequent to one another on Jupiter, you are truly winds blowing in reverse instructions. When this occurs, they’ll spin massive cyclones, equivalent to pushing a seashore ball with one hand and pulling it with the opposite hand will make it spin.

People have been observing the Nice Crimson Spot for at the least 200 years and it has been blowing robust winds virtually the whole time.

Like all hurricanes, it might change from day after day. Typically spherical and typically it appears to be like like an egg. Its colour may change from brownish-red to gentle pink. Typically it appears to be like virtually white.

However lately scientists have seen the shrinking of this enormous cyclone. About 100 years in the past, the Nice Crimson Spot was about thrice bigger than it’s immediately.

Learn extra: Curious Children: Why are some planets surrounded by rings?

Why is it shrinking?

To know why it’s shrinking, it’s useful to first perceive why cyclones on Earth shrink (and ultimately cease).

On Earth, cyclones usually type over deep, heat oceans earlier than transferring onto exhausting land or chilly waters. When cyclone winds hit exhausting land, the winds decelerate (and so the cyclone slows down).

cartoon illustration of cyclone on land
On Earth, cyclones often begin over massive heat oceans, however they decelerate as they transfer into cooler areas or break towards land.

Cyclones on Earth are additionally affected by different seasons and the winds round them, which might “layer” the cyclone in a matter of days.

However Jupiter would not have a tough, rocky floor like Earth. And though the air in Jupiter’s clouds is freezing, the air inside could be very sizzling. This heat air offers storms loads of vitality to rage for months, and even years.

So whereas the Nice Crimson Storm is shrinking, it might truly nonetheless be a little bit longer. And it has loads of vitality to maintain transferring.

We are able to even see it “flapping” on the edges because it slams into different storms and winds round it. However astronomers nonetheless do not know if this may make it go away fully. Some individuals assume that it might break up into a number of smaller storms sooner or later.

Not too long ago, the Juno house probe (which has been flying round Jupiter since 2016) took many stunning photos of Jupiter’s storms whereas flying by the planet. We are able to study one thing new from these photos.

Till then, we will even admire the Nice Crimson Spot because it rages.

The animation beneath exhibits the Juno house probe. You’ll be able to transfer it round to see it extra clearly. On the prime is the antenna. The big ‘wings’ are lined with photo voltaic panels that present energy for its numerous elements.

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