Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has shrunk to its smallest size yet, and scientists aren’t sure why.
Recent images from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has shrunk to less than half the size it was in the late 1800s. There was a time when three Earths could fit inside the storm; now, at 10,250 miles across, it fits only one Earth. You can watch a video showing the shrinkage right here.
Not only is the storm shrinking, but the rate at which it is shrinking appears to be accelerating, and scientists don’t seem to have a solid explanation.
“One possibility is that some unknown activity in the planet’s atmosphere may be draining energy and weakening the storm, causing it to shrink,” Hubble officials wrote in a statement.
Astronomers have known about the Great Red Spot since the 1600s, but it was not until 1930 that they noticed the spot was shrinking. Since then, flybys by Voyager 1 and 2 and images from the Hubble Space Telescope have tracked the shrinkage.
“In our new observations, it is apparent that very small eddies are feeding into the storm,” Amy Simon, associate director for strategic science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. “We hypothesized that these may be responsible for the accelerated change, by altering the internal dynamics and energy of the Great Red Spot.”
Could we be witnessing the slow death of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot?