A new sequence of Hubble Space Telescope images offers an unprecedented view of a planetary game of Pac-Man among three red spots clustered together in Jupiter's atmosphere. The images were taken by the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, developed and built by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
The time series shows the passage of the "Red Spot Jr." in a band of clouds below (south) of the Great Red Spot. "Red Spot Jr." first appeared on Jupiter in early 2006 when a previously white storm turned red. This is the second time, since turning red, it has skirted past its big brother apparently unscathed.
But this is not the fate of "baby red spot," which is in the same latitudinal band as the Great Red Spot. This new red spot first appeared earlier this year. The baby red spot gets ever closer to the Great Red Spot in this picture sequence until it is caught up in its anticyclonic spin. In the final image, the baby spot is deformed and pale in color and has been spun to the right (east) of the Great Red Spot. Amateur astronomers' observations confirm that this pale spot is the migrating baby spot.
The prediction is that the baby spot will now get pulled back into the Great Red Spot "Cuisinart" and disappear for good. This is one possible mechanism that has powered and sustained the Great Red Spot for at least 150 years.
These three natural-color Jupiter images were made from data acquired on May 15, June 28 and July 8, 2008, by JPL's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Each one covers 58 degrees of Jovian "latitude" and 70 degrees of "longitude" (centered on 5 degrees South latitudeand 110, 121 and 121 degrees West longitude, respectively).
For images and more information, visit http://hubblesite.org/news/2008/27.
For more information about JPL's Wide Field and Planetary Cameras, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/missiondetails.cfm?mission=WFPC.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington, D.C.
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