Jupiter’s large red spot is not only wide – it is also deep

Jupiter’s large red spot looks like a lightly stretched pancake, an egg-shaped spot on the largest planet in the solar system. As Jupiter’s largest anticyclone storm – that is, a storm in which air is forced downward through the center and toward the surface, as part of a larger high-pressure system – it is certainly the largest such storm in our solar system, as well as the most conspicuous feature of the massive gas giant . And as the chief investigator of NASA’s Juno mission told reporters on Thursday, scientists had previously imagined it as flat – you know, like a pancake.

But according to new research, Jupiter’s oval red spot is actually more like a toppings-and-syrup covered mega-stack. In other words, it’s not only as wide as 1.25 Earths – it’s also deep.

“We knew it was going to last a long time, but we did not know how deep or how it really worked,” explained Scott Bolton, who is also director of the Department of Space Science and Engineering at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. press conference. Bolton referred to a couple of new studies that, although recently published in the journal Science, are based on data that is more than two years old. When NASA’s Juno spacecraft (which entered Jupiter’s orbit in 2016) flew over the Great Red Spot in February and July 2019, it did so to find out how deep the 10,000-mile-wide vortex plunges under the cloud tops that we can see.

In the process, they learned, among other things, that the great red spot is about 40 times deeper than the Marian Tomb, the deepest place in the earth’s ocean. Researchers in the first study actually believe that it could extend more than 120 miles deep in total. In the second study, researchers speculated that it could reach a maximum depth of more than 300 miles.

Want more health and science stories in your inbox? Subscribe to Salon’s weekly newsletter The Vulgar Scientist.

The main implication here is that Jupiter’s inner and deep atmospheres may be connected through processes that are not yet understood. If so, it suggests that Jupiter – which is 11 times wider than Earth – may be home to meteorological events on scales that are more massive than scientists previously expected. In both estimates, the Great Red Spot extends well past the area of ​​Jupiter’s atmosphere, where scientists believe that water and ammonia are condensed into clouds.

“The big red spot is as deep in Jupiter as the International Space Station is high above our heads,” Marzia Parisi, a researcher at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told reporters. Yet the Great Red Spot is still more shallow than the titanic wind bands that propel it, as they extend to depths exceeding 1,800 miles.

In addition to revealing more about the Great Red Spot, the Juno mission has also found that Jupiter has five cyclonic storms at its south pole and eight at its north pole. Consequently, the latter has formed a shape like a pentagon, and the former forms a shape like an octagon. Juno also observed the sixteen wind circulation patterns in Jupiter’s atmosphere that work in the same way as Ferrel cells on Earth (of which there are only two). While Earth’s Ferrel cells extend 6 miles from the surface, Jupiters begin at the level of their clouds and extend for at least 200 miles.

The Great Red Spot has been a source of fascination for humans for nearly two centuries, when it was first observed in 1831. Since then, astronomers have observed this charismatic property change in size, and in recent years it appears to be shrinking. . Although twice the diameter of the Earth in 1979, it has shrunk by almost a third in the next 42 years. Although it is part of the gas giant, the large red spot may eventually shrink until it disappears. So far, it still holds many mysteries.

Leave a Comment