Farewell to Jupiter's Great Red Spot?

The Great Red Spot of Jupiter as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft

The Great Red Spot of Jupiter as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft

"In truth, the Great Red Spot has been shrinking for a long time". The spot, which is actually a storm that has been raging on the planet for several hundred years, may soon simply dissipate, leaving only a Great Red Memory.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot, simulated using data collected during NASA's Juno mission. But in modern times, the Great Red Spot appears to be diminishing in size, as measured by Earth-based telescopes and spacecraft.

Researchers don't know exactly what drives the storm, but it's obvious that it's dying down.

"Nothing lasts forever", said Glenn Orton, a scientist at NASA JPL and leader of the Juno mission, referring to the Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

The Great Red Spot found on gas giant Jupiter, continues to baffle the scientists.

Since this is simply a storm, you might wonder why or how a storm could last so long on Jupiter.

So far the longest storm that Earth has experienced occurred in 1991 when Hurricane John had lasted for a span of 31 days.

"They don't, at least not all of them", Orton said in an email.

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"Think of the GRS 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", he said.

Earth's jet streams are influenced by the closeness of the dynamic atmosphere to the planet's land and sea, as well as it's slower rotation compared to Jupiter.

Its disappearance would be quite a momentous occasion in the history of our solar system, as the storm has likely been around for more than 350 years. Earth is also relatively small and rotates more slowly than Jupiter (which spins once roughly every 10 hours). "In truth, the GRS has been shrinking for a long time, ' he said, noting it is now shrinking".

This means that Earth's weather systems are usually disrupted before they can get out of control, unlike in Jupiter.

200 years ago, the Great Red Spot had a diameter of almost 40,000 kilometers.

The remaining lifetime of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter isn't much better.

Juno will once again make flybys over the Great Red Spot in April 2018, as well as in July and September of 2019 and for the final time in December 2020, even though the views may not be as detailed as the 2017 flyby.

When the Voyager 2 space probe flew past the storm in 1979, the size of the storm was found to be twice the size of Earth.

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