The Suspiciously Shrinking Storm


The planet Jupiter doesn’t do anything small. The planet is the largest in our solar system. It has 67 moons, the largest of which would be considered dwarf planets if found outside of the gas giant’s immense gravitational pull. It has a 9 hour day and an 11.8 year trip around the Sun.

It also sports a giant, red-orange mark on its southern hemisphere. Aptly named the Great Red Spot, its actually a massive, persistent anticyclonic storm, which means that it has high pressure at the center and turns in the opposite direction dictated by the coriolis effect (For example, on Earth, cyclonic systems spin counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the south). It’s also at least 400 years old.

But since its first observation in the 1600s, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has slowly made its way to becoming more like the Okay Red Spot, or perhaps more charitably, the Once-Great Red Spot. Measurements made in the 1800’s put the storm at 41,000km across—where it could comfortably swallow three Earths. But by the time the Voyager probes passed by in 1979 and 1980, the storm had shrunk to 23,335km. Now. thanks to the Hubble Telescope, scientists have been able to monitor the shrinking storm better than ever, as shown in the image below.

At this time, scientists are unsure why the storm is shrinking, but it’s more than possible that this sort of weather behavior happens normally. Such as when Saturn gained a massive new storm in 2010.