Jupiter's iconic 'Great Red Spot' is shrinking; may fade away within a decade: Scientist

The Great Red Spot is a giant oval of crimson-colored clouds in Jupiter's southern hemisphere that race counterclockwise around the oval's perimeter with wind speeds greater than any storm on Earth.

Jupiter's iconic 'Great Red Spot' is shrinking; may fade away within a decade: Scientist
Image courtesy: NASA (Representational image)

New Delhi: One of Jupiter's most eye-catching, enigmatic features has been its 'Great Red Spot' which is being monitored since 1830.

As researchers try to delve deep into the spot that has become the face of Jupiter and has possibly been existing for more than 350 years, a NASA researcher has said that the spectacular storm is gradually disappearing and could fade away in as a little as a decade.

Being the largest – and now officially the oldest – planet of the solar system, Jupiter has caught the fancy of scientists and astronomers compelling them to study the gas giant better by delving into its interiors.

The iconic storm that is now 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide), was estimated to be about 35,000 miles (56,000km) in diameter in the 1800s – wide enough for four Earths to fit side by side.

According to the Daily Mail, the researcher who is a part of NASA's Juno mission has said the Great Red Spot is now only 1.3 times the size of Earth, and it's likely that it will only last a decade or two longer before it dies.

The Great Red Spot is a giant oval of crimson-colored clouds in Jupiter's southern hemisphere that race counterclockwise around the oval's perimeter with wind speeds greater than any storm on Earth.

In the 19th century, the Great Red Spot was well over two Earths wide. But in modern times, the Great Red Spot appears to be diminishing in size, as measured by Earth-based telescopes and spacecraft.

Glenn Orton, a Juno mission team member and a planetary scientist at NASA JPL, told Business Insider that the Great Red Spot is like a 'spinning wheel that keeps on spinning because it's caught between two conveyor belts that are moving in opposite directions.

'The GRS is stable and long-lived because it's 'wedged' between two jet streams that are moving in opposite directions.'

But Orton warns its days are numbered. ''In truth, the GRS has been shrinking for a long time,' he said, noting it is currently shrinking.

In July 2017, the Juno spacecraft captured detailed images of Jupiter and its striking 'Great Red Spot' – the closest images we've ever gotten of the giant storm.

Juno will once again make flybys over the Great Red Spot in April 2018, as well as in July and September of 2019 and for the final time in December 2020, even though the views may not be as detailed as the 2017 flyby.

While storms on Jupiter can last for an extended period of time, those on Earth cannot because Earth's surface isn't covered in tens of thousands of miles of atmosphere, the Daily Mail said.

Earth is also smaller and rotates on its axis slower than Jupiter, which revolves around its axis once every ten hours.

This means that Earth's weather systems are usually disrupted before they can get out of control, unlike in Jupiter.

Despite this, the Great Red Spot will not last forever, as it has been shrinking for a long time.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is not the only storm that is shrinking. According to the observations of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, a storm on Neptune has also almost disappeared.

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