In Jupiter’s atmosphere is a giant storm that has been raging for more than 300 years and is known as its Great Red Spot. Due to the storm’s high-speed winds and extreme temperatures, enjoying the view of the curious swirling vortex from afar would be preferable to falling into it. Nonetheless, let us peer into Jupiter’s Great Red Spot to see what is inside of this whirlwind whose size and intensity have never been seen before.
Traveling through its top layer, we find ourselves in cloud-tops located 8 kilometers higher than any surrounding cloud-tops. This is explained by the temperature of the Great Red Spot’s clouds. They are colder than most other clouds on Jupiter and thus rise higher in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, the temperatures you experience as you enter the very top layer are substantially higher, exceeding 1300 degrees.
The uppermost layer is home to ferocious winds beyond anything a human has ever experienced on Earth. Indeed, this anticyclonic storm is the most violent and largest one in the Solar System, producing winds with speeds up to 600 kilometers per hour. On Jupiter, these storms may last months, years, or even centuries.
The winds you experience as you enter the storm are powered by two jet-streams which give the storm its constant spin, rotating with a period of about 6 days. At the top of the Great Red Spot is a jet-stream pushing eastwards and south of it, is a much stronger one pushing westwards. Both jet-streams work together to maintain the storm’s constant latitude, which has remained almost unchanged for as long as we have observed it.
What do we observe as we approach the core?
As we continue on our trip to the core of the Great Red Spot, we travel a distance of almost 100 times the depth of our oceans. The temperature starts to slowly rise until we reach a base that carries unusually high temperatures. These high temperatures and Jupiter’s hot metallic core explain the violence of the winds seen at the surface of the atmosphere.
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Where does the future of the Great Red Spot lie?
All of these observations may very well be temporary as many speculate that the Great Red Spot may disappear in a time frame as short as the next 20 years. Indeed, between the 1800s when it was first observed and more recent observations in the 1970s, its size was reported to have diminished by half, shrinking at a rate of about 1000 kilometers per year. Back then, its width was about three times that of the Earth, yet today the storm is about 1.3 times the size of the Earth. This shrinking has also induced a reduction of the Great Red Spot’s spinning period.
Nonetheless, there is no need to worry yet, as most scientists disagree. Indeed, many claim, on the contrary, that the apparent size reduction is only due to increased cloud coverage which does not reflect the size of the underlying vortex. The Great Red Spot will not cease being great just yet.
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Author at ‘The Secrets Of The Universe’, I am an 18-year-old high school student from Switzerland taking the IB diploma. I always strive to share and spread knowledge should it be through writing, tutoring, or engaging communities with shared interests in my school.