Jupiter's giant red spot shrinking, Hubble images show

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. Thu May 15, 2014 10:56pm IST

Jupiter's most distinctive feature - a giant red spot, is seen in this April 21, 2014, NASA handout photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the planet. REUTERS/NASA, ESA, Goddard Space Center/Handout via Reuters

Jupiter's most distinctive feature - a giant red spot, is seen in this April 21, 2014, NASA handout photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the planet.

Credit: Reuters/NASA, ESA, Goddard Space Center/Handout via Reuters

Related Topics

Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - Jupiter’s most distinctive feature – a giant red spot bigger than Earth – is shrinking, images from the Hubble Space Telescope released on Thursday showed.

The so-called "Great Red Spot" is a violent storm, which in the late 1800s was estimated to be about 25,000 miles (about 40,000 km) in diameter – wide enough for three Earths to fit side by side.

The storm, which is the biggest in the solar system, appears as a deep red orb surrounded by layers of pale yellow, orange and white. Winds inside the storm have been measured at several hundreds of miles per hour, NASA astronomers said.

By the time NASA’s Voyager space probes flew by in 1979 and 1980, the spot was down to about 14,500 miles (22,500 km) across.

Now, new pictures taken by the Earth-orbiting Hubble space telescope show Jupiter's red spot is smaller than it has ever been, measuring just under 10,250 miles (16,100 kilometers) in diameter. It also appears more circular in shape.

Scientists aren’t sure why the Great Red Spot is shrinking by about 621 miles (1,000 km) a year.

"It is apparent that very small eddies are feeding into the storm ... These may be responsible for the accelerated change by altering the (storm’s) internal dynamics," Amy Simon, an astronomer with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.

Simon and colleagues plan follow-up studies to try to figure out what is happening in Jupiter’s atmosphere that is draining the storm of energy and causing it to shrink.

((link to images: here))

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

FILED UNDER:

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Racial Unrest

Racial Unrest

Protests in Ferguson dwindle, mass arrests at California rallies.  Full Article 

Protest Leaders Banned

Protest Leaders Banned

Hong Kong student leaders banned from Mong Kok protest site.  Full Article 

Suicide Attack

Suicide Attack

Suicide bomber kills five in attack on British embassy car in Kabul - officials.  Full Article 

Nuclear Deal

Nuclear Deal

Iran Supreme Leader says not opposed to extension of nuclear talks.  Full Article 

Myanmar Reforms

Myanmar Reforms

Dinner with Suu Kyi? - No thanks, say Myanmar military.  Full Article 

Opinion Poll

Opinion Poll

Majority of Russians believe their troops are not fighting in Ukraine - poll.  Full Article 

Political Deal

Political Deal

UK edges towards federalism with Scotland powers deal.  Full Article 

Ebola Epideimic

Ebola Epideimic

Number of Ebola cases nears 16,000 as Sierra Leone loses ground - WHO.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage