Jupiter's Three Red Spots
For about 300 years Jupiter's banded atmosphere has shown a remarkable feature
to telescopic viewers, a large swirling storm system known as The Great Red Spot.
In 2006, another red storm system appeared, actually seen to form as smaller
whitish oval-shaped storms merged and then developed the curious reddish hue.
Now, Jupiter has a third red spot, again produced from a smaller whitish storm.
All three are seen in this image made from data recorded on May 9 and 10 with the
Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The spots extend above
the surrounding clouds and their red color may be due to deeper material dredged
up by the storms and exposed to ultraviolet light, but the exact chemical process
is still unknown. For scale, the Great Red Spot has almost twice the diameter of
planet Earth, making both new spots less than one Earth-diameter across. The newest
red spot is on the far left (west), along the same band of clouds as the Great Red
Spot and is drifting toward it. If the motion continues, the new spot will encounter
the much larger storm system in August. Jupiter's recent outbreak of red spots is
likely related to large scale climate change as the gas giant planet is getting
warmer near the equator.