The greatest storm in Solar system has only a few years left before it completely fades

March 19, 2018 Ani Aslanyan 0 Comments


There has been a giant storm on Jupiter called the Great Red Spot (GRS) for the past 400 years. However, scientists have recently discovered that this storm is actually shrinking with time and will eventually dissipate completely in the next few years.

This new information comes as the probe Juno, NASA’s US 1 billion dollar voyager, sent back incredibly detailed images of the planet Jupiter’s surface back in July 2017. Scientists have been amazed with the clarity and detail of the pictures. These are the closest images which have ever been taken of Jupiter.
What is the Great Red Spot?


“A wider view of Jupiter and the Great Red Spot as seen from Voyager 1 in 1979”

The GRS is a super storm which has been around since the 1600s and was four times the size of Earth when it was at its peak. If there is a comparison to Earth’s longest storm, it would be Hurricane John in 1994 which lasted for 31 days.

Glenn Orton, team member for the Juno mission and a scientist at NASA, explains why the GRS has been around for so long, “Think of the GRS [Great Red Spot] as a spinning wheel that keeps on spinning because it’s caught between two conveyor belts that are moving in opposite directions. The GRS is stable and long-lived, because it’s ‘wedged’ between two jet streams that are moving in opposite directions.”

“Time-lapse sequence from the approach of Voyager 1 to Jupiter, showing the motion of atmospheric bands, and circulation of the Great Red Spot.”

Not all storms on Jupiter last this long however and so the GRS is an exceptional storm, by all means. Juno will be able to send more pictures during its next fly by April 2018, then again in July and September of 2019 and then one last time in December 2020 but these would not be as detailed as the pictures sent this time.

“[W]e’re not planning currently ever to come as close without changing the orbit from its current configuration,” Orton said. “This also assumes that the GRS maintains its current drift rate in Jupiter’s atmosphere.”
When will the GRS completely disappear?

“Approximate size comparison of Earth and the Great Red Spot.”

It is hard to predict exactly when the storm will completely dissipate. It cannot be expected to last forever, “In truth, the GRS has been shrinking for a long time,” Orton says. In the 1800s, the storm was four times the size of Earth. However, in 1979 it was observed through the images sent by Voyager 2 that the storm had shrunk to almost twice the size of the Earth.

“Now it’s something like 13 degrees wide in longitude and only 1.3 times the size of the Earth,” Orton said. “Nothing lasts forever.” So there are chances that before the turn of the century, the Great Red Spot will finally fade into nothingness.

Unlike on Jupiter, the storms on Earth don’t last as long because Earth’s surface isn’t covered in miles and miles of atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere is also in close contact with mountains and oceans and it also spins relatively much slower than Jupiter. As a result of these factors, the weather patterns are disturbed and dissipated before they turn into anything dangerous.


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