Consequences of Imploded and Electrocuted Amidst Jupiter’s 300-year-old Storms
A storm larger than Earth and powerful enough to tear apart smaller storms that envelop it, the Great Red Spot is one of the most prominent features of Jupiter’s atmosphere and the entire solar system. A counterclockwise-moving anticyclone, a storm is characterized by winds of up to 300 miles per hour. Observed from the 1830s and possibly as far back as the 1660s, this striking feature has long been a source of great fascination and scientific research.
There is still much more to know about the Great Red Spot, including when and how it formed, what gives it its distinctive red color, and why it lasts so much longer than other storms observed in Jupiter’s atmosphere. I don’t know. However, astronomers believe that its latitude, which is consistently 22 degrees south of Jupiter’s equator, is related to the prominent cloud belts in Jupiter’s atmosphere. As a planetary astronomer studying comet atmospheres, I don’t typically study violent storms. Still, I’d like to know what features we see in the atmospheres of other bodies in our solar system, including Jupiter. Studying all kinds of atmospheres increases our understanding of how they are made and work.
Unlike Jupiter, Earth has land, and large storms lose energy due to friction with solid surfaces. Without this feature, Jupiter’s storms would last longer. But the Great Red Spot is long-lived, even by Jupiter’s standards. Researchers don’t fully understand why, but they do know that storms on Jupiter in swaths of clouds that rotate in the same direction tend to last longer.
These colorful alternating bands, called belts (dark bands) and zones (light bands), run parallel to Jupiter’s equator. The researchers have not determined what causes the bands and zones to color, but differences in their chemical composition, temperature, and atmospheric transparency have all been suggested as contributing factors. rotate. That is, they move in opposite directions for adjacent bands. Band and zone boundaries are marked by strong winds called zonal jets.
The Great Red Spot is surrounded by east-facing rays to the north and west-facing rays to the south.
On Earth, there is a well-defined boundary between the atmosphere and the surface of the planet, most of which is covered with liquid water. However, no large oceans are known to exist beneath Jupiter’s clouds. Based on what researchers know, the planet’s interior atmosphere is smoothly transitioning into liquid hydrogen. Jupiter may have a solid core, but it is most likely buried very deeply beneath a thick layer of liquid metallic hydrogen, a type of hydrogen that acts as an electrical conductor.
What else do we know about the dramatically changing Great Red Spot? its size, shape and color. An analysis of historical and recent data on the GRS showed that it shrank, became rounder and larger, and changed color over time. What is driving these changes, and what do they mean for the future of the Great Red Spot? Researchers aren’t sure.
But NASA’s Juno spacecraft, now orbiting Jupiter, is collecting more data about the cloud band and the Great Red Spot. This new data could provide insight into many features of Jupiter’s atmosphere.