All too many Americans are STEM-illiterate. Yet most of us know the solar system consists of eight to nine planets orbiting the sun, and that the largest of those planets is Jupiter. Some of us may remember from science class that Jupiter possesses a phenomenon called the Great Red Spot,
What is the Great Red Spot?
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a “storm that has been roiling for centuries.” It was officially discovered by German astronomer Samuel Heinrich Schwabe in 1831. Earlier astronomers (Giovanni Cassini, who discovered four of the moons of Saturn, Robert Hooke) observed something on Jupiter that may or may not have been identified as the Great Red Spot by Italian astronomer Gian Domenico Cassini in 1665.
The longest storm ever recorded on Earth was Hurricane John in 1994, which lasted 31 days. Contrariwise, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been observed since September 1831, and is probably older. The Great Red Spot is an anticyclone, which formed around an area of high pressure. It is powered by two jet streams on either side which give the storm a constant spin.
The Great Red Spot is larger than the Earth. In the 19th century, it was 40,000 kilometers long and 14,000 km tall. )That’s 25,000 miles long and 8,700 miles tall. The Hubble Space telescope has observed the Red Spot both shrinking and speeding up.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has observed Jupiter for over a decade. From 2009 to 2020, the winds have increased speed by eight percent. SciTech Daily reports The Red Spot’s ” ‘outer lane’ is moving faster than the inner lane – and continues to pick up speed.” SciTech Daily explained “the massive storm’s crimson-colored clouds spin counterclockwise at speeds that exceed 400 miles per hour – and the vortex is bigger than Earth itself. The red spot is legendary in part because humans have observed it for more than 150 years.”
What does this mean to us here on Earth? The reason the storm is accelerating may be key to understanding similar (though admittedly vastly smaller) storms here on our own planet. The Great Red Spot’s longevity is key to this. It’s only because we’ve had the technology to monitor the wind speeds via observations done with the Hubble Telescope between 2009 and 2020 that we even know the speedup is happening. The Jovian storm is almost like the Universe offering us a textbook to read from to help us graduate to the next level of understanding.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.