Jupiter's Great Red Spot is growing taller over time

Astronomers have found that Jupiter's Great Red Spot is growing taller as it shrinks over time.
By Joseph Scalise | Mar 16, 2018
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is both shrinking and growing taller over time, a newstudypublished in the Astronomical Journalreports.

The red spot is a raging storm that astronomers have studied over the past 150 years. In that time, the cyclone has both shrunk considerably and turned a deep shade of orange.Study of such changes are key because they could give insight into how the region came to be and how it evolved to where it is now.

In the recent study, a group of NASA astronomers analyzed archived observations of the Great Red Spot to compile a timeline for the massive cyclone. They also combined historical findings with spacecraft data to trace the storm's characteristics, including its color, shape, and drift rate.

This showed that, surprisingly, the Great Red Spot is growing taller over time. Though there is no doubt the diameter is shrinking each year, the clouds are consistently stretching upwards.

"It's almost like clay being shaped on a potter's wheel," explained Elizabeth Zubritsky, a NASA researcher who was not involved in the study, in a statement. "As the wheel spins, an artist can transform a short, round lump into a tall, thin vase by pushing inward with his hands. The smaller he makes the base, the taller the vessel will grow."

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is large. So large that researchers believe it may have once been wider than three Earths.Though nobody is sure why the storm became orange in 2014, the team in the study believes height could be the cause. That is because, as the storm moves up into the atmosphere the chemicals that give it color may darken as they receive more UV radiation.

"If the trends we see in the Great Red Spot continue, the next five to 10 years could be very interesting from a dynamical point of view," said study co-author Rick Cosentino, a postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center, according to Space.com. "We could see rapid changes in the storm's physical appearance and behavior, and maybe the red spot will end up being not so great after all."

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