Jupiter?s Great Red Spot has roughed up a younger rival storm and may consume it altogether.
The baby red spot appears to have gotten the worst of its whirlwind encounter with the ravenous super-storm that has dominated Jupiter for at least two centuries. Their tussle was captured in a recent series of images by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Scientists may be watching historical shifts in action as they learn how the giant planet's storms grow and change over decades and centuries.
The smaller storm first appeared earlier this year, but had the misfortune to get caught up in the reverse cyclone spin of the Great Red Spot. That left the baby red spot deformed and sapped of color as it spun off to the east of the greater storm. Astronomers predict that the Great Red Spot will eventually pull in and absorb the baby red spot a possible reason why the super-storm has sustained its power for so long.
Another super-storm, a third one known as the Little Red Spot, safely skirted its larger cousin, and may challenge the Great Red Spot for size. The Little Red Spot?s top winds already equal those of the Great Red Spot at nearly 384 mph (172 meters per second), and a scientist told SPACE.com in May that the newer contender may be part of a larger storm system beneath Jupiter?s upper atmosphere.
The Little Red Spot first appeared in 2005, after a three-way storm merger turned it from white to an angry red. That means the battle of Jupiter?s titans may eventually depend on which storm can consume the most fallen rivals.
- Video: Follow New Horizons on its Jupiter Flyby
- The Wildest Weather in the Galaxy
- Image Gallery: Jupiter's Moons