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Jupiter's Red Spot Shrinking

Jupiter s Red Spot Shrinking

Jupiter s Red Spot Shrinking

Jupiter s Red Spot Shrinking

Jupiter s Red Spot Shrinking


Jupiter's most distinctive feature, the Great Red Spot, is shrinking, and shrinking fast.  In fact it may disappear right before our eyes.

We're not sure how old the Great Red Spot is.  Astronomer Giovanni Cassini sketched a large dark spot within the southern equatorial band of the planet back in the 17th century.  His drawings match up very well with the current red spot, but no mention was made of it between 1713-1830.  Did it just disappear?  

After Cincinnati Observatory founder Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel aimed the new telescope at Jupiter in 1846 he described the surface features of the giant planet in great detail.  He mentions shadows cast by the Galilean moons on the planet, the swirling clouds, and several bright and dark spots that appeared and disappeared during the season.  He also sketched Jupiter but did not show or describe a great red spot. 

The Great Red Spot (GRS) then "reappeared" in sketches in the 1880s made by astronomers from their new observatories.  The drawing show Jupiter as a gigantic ruddy eye – more of a Great Red Sausage.  Today this anticyclone is more circular than sausage-shaped, and isn’t even red.  In the last two years, GRS has gotten noticeably paler.  In better telescopes you can locate it as a white break in the dark brown South Equatorial Belt.  

As we've watched Jupiter even more closely over the past decade new spots have formed including Red Jr. and Red III.  Red III was swallowed by the Great Red Spot but Red Jr. still exists while other knots of clouds swirl, darken, lighten, and fade.  

Who know how long the Great Red Spot will last.  But soon, it may be going, going, gone.

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The Great Red Spot is a storm, like hurricanes on earth:

No storm lasts forever. 

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