Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Jupiter's Little Red Spot Growing Stronger

Date:
October 14, 2006
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
The highest wind speeds in Jupiter's Little Red Spot have increased and are now equal to those in its older and larger sibling, the Great Red Spot, according to observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

These are two views of Jupiter's Little Red Spot taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in April 2006. The left image is a close-up view. In the right image, a box has been added to show the Little Red Spot's location on Jupiter. The larger Great Red Spot, which has been observed for the past 400 years, can be seen to the right.
Credit: NASA / ESA / Amy Simon-Miller

The highest wind speeds in Jupiter's Little Red Spot have increased and are now equal to those in its older and larger sibling, the Great Red Spot, according to observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The Little Red Spot's winds, now raging up to approximately 400 miles per hour, signal that the storm is growing stronger, according to the NASA-led team that made the Hubble observations. The increased intensity of the storm probably caused it to change color from its original white in late 2005, according to the team.

"No one has ever seen a storm on Jupiter grow stronger and turn red before," said Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., lead author of a paper describing the new observations appearing in the journal Icarus. "We hope continued observations of the Little Red Spot will shed light on the many mysteries of the Great Red Spot, including the composition of its clouds and the chemistry that gives it its red color."

Although it seems small when viewed against Jupiter's vast scale, the Little Red Spot is actually about the size of Earth, and the Great Red Spot is around three Earth diameters across. Both are giant storms in Jupiter's southern hemisphere powered by warm air rising in their centers.

The Little Red Spot is the only survivor among three white-colored storms that merged together. In the 1940s, the three storms were seen forming in a band slightly below the Great Red Spot. In 1998, two of the storms merged into one, which then merged with the third storm in 2000. In 2005, amateur astronomers noticed that this remaining, larger storm was changing color, and it became known as the Little Red Spot after becoming noticeably red in early 2006.

The new Hubble observations by the team reveal that winds in the Little Red Spot have grown stronger compared to previous observations. In 1979, Voyager 1 and 2 flew by Jupiter and recorded that top winds were only about 268 miles per hour in one of the "parent" storms that merged to become the Little Red Spot. Nearly 20 years later, the Galileo orbiter revealed that top wind speeds were still the same in the parent storm, but winds in the Great Red Spot blew at up to 400 miles per hour. The team used Hubble's new Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument to discover that top wind speeds in both storms are now the same, because this instrument has enough resolution to track small features in these storms, revealing their wind speeds.

Scientists are not sure why the Little Red Spot is growing stronger. One possibility is a change in size. These storms naturally fluctuate in size, and their winds spin around their central core of rising air. If the storm were to become smaller, its spiraling winds would increase the same way spinning ice skaters turn faster by pulling their arms closer to their bodies. Another possibility is that it's the only survivor. "The lack of other large storms in the same latitude on Jupiter leaves more energy to feed the Little Red Spot," said Simon-Miller.

According to the team, the increased intensity of the Little Red Spot probably explains why it changed color. It is likely to be behaving like the Great Red Spot for two reasons: it has the same wind speed and the team's color analysis showed that it really is the same color as the Great Red Spot. It's probably pulling up gaseous material from far below that changes color when exposed to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. The question remains whether the storm is pulling up something that it wasn't before, because its increased intensity allows it to reach deeper, or whether it is pulling up the same material but the higher winds allow the storm to hold it aloft longer, increasing the time it is exposed to solar ultraviolet light and turning it red.

The team could confirm exactly what the red material is if they are able to use a technique called spectroscopy in future observations of the Little Red Spot. Spectroscopy is an analysis of the light given off by an object. Each element and chemical gives a unique signal - brightness at specific colors or wavelengths. Identifying these signals reveals an object's composition.

However, spectroscopy of Jupiter's atmosphere is complicated because it has many chemicals that could turn red if exposed to ultraviolet light. "We need to simulate different possible Jupiter atmospheres in a lab so we can discover what spectrometric signals they give. We will then have something to compare with the actual spectrometric signal," said Simon-Miller.

The team includes Simon-Miller, Dr. Nancy J. Chanover and Michael Sussman of New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M.; Dr. Glenn S. Orton of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; Irene G. Tsavaris of the University of Maryland, College Park; and Dr. Erich Karkoschka of the University of Arizona, Tucson.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Jupiter's Little Red Spot Growing Stronger." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061013122425.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2006, October 14). Jupiter's Little Red Spot Growing Stronger. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061013122425.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Jupiter's Little Red Spot Growing Stronger." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061013122425.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins