After slipping past Venus and Saturn the last couple of evenings, the Moon hangs out with one more planetary companion the next couple of nights: Jupiter, the giant of the solar system. The brilliant planet stands above the Moon as night falls tonight, and to the right of the Moon tomorrow night.
Jupiter’s most obvious feature is the Great Red Spot — a giant storm system. It towers high above the surrounding clouds, and it’s been around for at least 150 years — and perhaps much longer. Compounds dredged up from deep below the storm color it in shades of red and orange.
The Great Red Spot has received a lot of attention in recent years because it’s been shrinking. A hundred and fifty years ago, it was between two and three times the diameter of Earth. Today, though, it’s only about one-and-a-quarter times the size of Earth — about 10,000 miles across.
A recent study found that the storm’s winds are changing, too.
Hubble Space Telescope keeps a regular eye on Jupiter. Scientists use it to track the winds across the planet — especially in the Great Red Spot. They found that, from 2009 to 2020, the wind at the rim of the storm sped up by about eight percent. It blows at a brisk 400 miles per hour — more than twice the speed of the most powerful hurricane ever recorded on Earth.
On the other hand, winds at the center of the storm have slowed down — adding to the intrigue about this amazing storm.
Script by Damond Benningfield