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No, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is not disintegrating, physicist claims

No, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is not disintegrating, physicist claims

No, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is not disintegrating, physicist claims

Photograph of Jupiter.
Enlarge / A dramatic view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and its atmosphere, courtesy of Voyager 1 on Feb. 25, 1979, when the spacecraft used to be five.7 million miles (nine.2 million kilometers) from Jupiter.

Earlier this 12 months, a number of novice astronomers noticed an extraordinary anomaly on this planet Jupiter: bits of the fuel massive’s famed Great Red Spot seemed to be flaking off, elevating fears that the planet’s maximum identifiable function may well be appearing indicators of disappearing. But Philip Marcus, a physicist on the University of California, Berkeley, begs to range. He argues that experiences of the pink spot’s demise had been a great deal exaggerated, and at a gathering of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Seattle this week, he presented an intriguing counter-explanation for the flaking.

The Great Red Spot is mainly a huge hurricane in Jupiter’s environment, about 22 levels south of the planet’s equator. Because it is positioned within the southern hemisphere, it rotates counter-clockwise, that means it is extra of an “anti-cyclone.” The 17th-century scientist Robert Hooke is frequently credited with the primary recorded statement of the pink spot in 1664, even if some contend Giovanni Cassini supplied a extra convincing description in 1665. After 1713, there have been no reported observations for over 100 years, till the pink spot used to be seen once more in 1830 and frequently thereafter. Despite the space in recorded observations, many astronomers imagine it is the identical hurricane, nonetheless going sturdy greater than 350 years later.

This is not the primary time an alarm has been raised in regards to the conceivable dissolution of the pink spot. Back in 2004, astronomers concluded that it used to be shrinking, in comparison to 100 years in the past, and the spot turns out to had been shrinking much more all of a sudden since 2012. In May 2017, the Gemini North telescope at the summit of Hawaii’s Maunakea captured a picture of a small hook-like cloud at the pink spot’s western facet, in addition to a protracted wave, or “streamer,” extending off its jap facet.

Earlier this 12 months, the Juno spacecraft photographed massive pink “flakes” breaking off from the Great Red Spot. Then, on May 19, 2019, an Australian novice astronomer named Anthony Wesley captured a picture of a streamer peeling clear of the pink spot; he noticed the similar phenomenon on May 22. Similar observations through novice astronomers adopted, variously described as “hooks” and “blades,” in addition to flakes and streamers.

A (false color) series of images capturing the repeated flaking of red clouds from the GRS in spring 2019. In the earliest image, the flaking is predominant on the east side of the giant red vortex. The flake then breaks off from the GRS, but a new flake starts to detach in the fifth image.
Enlarge / A (false colour) sequence of pictures shooting the repeated flaking of pink clouds from the GRS in spring 2019. In the earliest symbol, the flaking is principal at the east facet of the large pink vortex. The flake then breaks off from the GRS, however a brand new flake begins to detach within the 5th symbol.

Chris Go

“Each streamer appears to disconnect from the Great Red Spot and dissipate,” Wesley advised EarthSky. “Then, after about a week, a new streamer forms and the process repeats. You have to be lucky to catch it happening; Jupiter spins on its axis every 10 hours and the Great Red Spot is not always visible.”

According to Prof. Marcus, on the other hand, his pc fashions display that the flaking is not a demise knell for the Great Red Spot in any respect. Rather, it is a very herbal climate phenomenon bobbing up from the complicated fluid dynamics of Jupiter’s environment. During a press convention, he cited two particular elements that he thinks are accountable for the flaking seen previous this 12 months.

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