Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Big Changes on a Big Planet: Red Spot on Jupiter Has Company

"Jupiter's Spots Change Dramatically"
Space.com (May 26, 2008)

"A potentially historic change is occurring on Jupiter. An upstart storm now rivals the gas giant's Big Red Spot as king of storms, astronomers announced last week.

"The Little Red Spot, as it was named upon discovery in 2006, shows both size and speed in threatening to knock the former champion off its perch, with Junior's maximum winds reaching 384 mph (172 meters per second)...."

"A third red spot on Jupiter was also announced last week by a different team, joining its larger super-storm cousins. The Great Red Spot has raged on for at least two centuries and perhaps as much as 350 years, ancient observations suggest...."

"Such changes in Jupiter's weather come as part of a global upheaval that began before the New Horizons spacecraft visited last year. The idea that Jupiter is undergoing global climate change was proposed in 2004 by Phil Marcus, a mechanical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley. He predicted large changes in the southern hemisphere starting around 2006 that would destabilize jet streams and spawn new storms."

Exciting times for astronomy: particularly since there are now space-based observing platforms that have clear views of the sky.

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