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The Hubble telescope has been key to detecting a strange change in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: a new mystery adds to this crazy storm

The Hubble telescope endures, old and stoic, despite its failures and continues to provide valuable information. The last one revolves around the Great Spot of Jupiter, that crazy storm that continues to provoke our interest and hold mysteries.

The last one is precisely the one that Hubble has “told us” about. NASA has detected thanks to him that the winds in the Great Red Spot are undergoing strange changes, which has caught the interest of astronomers studying the planet. The huge spot, which is roughly a large storm 2.5 times the diameter of the Earth, has previously exhibited strange behaviors and continues to be an object of study within what can be considered great space mysteries, hence any finding of this type is striking.

“No one has seen this before”

Given the magnitude of the event, the Great Red Spot has historically been quite policed, especially as we have had better observatories. Specifically, Michael Wong (researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, director of this research) points out that Hubble has been key to identifying the peculiarity of what was detected due to its longevity and that it turns out to be the only one that can capture detailed information from the Jupiter winds, notes Amy Simon (NASA, also in research).

What they have detected is that winds in the Great Spot have increased greatly in the last decade, specifically 8% between the years 2009 and 2020. This creates a kind of annular zone that they call “high speed ring” that contrasts with the innermost zone of the stain, with increasingly slower winds.

Red Spot NasaRed Spot Nasa

Superposition of some arrows indicating the direction vectors of the winds in the “high speed ring” and the innermost region of the patch, in a photograph (left) and a speed map (right). Image: NASA, ESA, Michael H. Wong (UC Berkeley)

Wong comments that at first this already broke their schemes quite a bit, wondering when seeing the results if “this made sense” and assuming that “no one has seen this before”. To analyze them, the researcher decided to make a new approach and use software to record the vectors of the winds (components of direction and speed), which can be thousands considering that each observation of Jupiter was reviewed with this data. He later performed statistical checks to confirm his results.

Yes indeed, what gets complicated is finding a diagnosis. When asked what is happening with the Red Spot winds, Hubble’s relative blindness to the inability to collect data beyond the upper clouds of the Jovian atmosphere means that at the moment they cannot determine what is happening there so that there is change. It will also be necessary to see if his successor continues to provide this valuable information, now that he finally has little left to take the witness (if nothing goes wrong again).

The hope is that, as they get to know better what happens in the popular vortex you can get to know what nourishes or enhances it and how it maintains its energy. In recent years we have known that it is getting small, with what it is estimated that it will disappear in about 20 years. But once again the findings manage to create a headache for scientists, which has already happened even with the representative color that gives it its name.

Image | POT