Jupiter Breaks Out in Spots

Jupiter Breaks Out in Spots
A third red spot has appeared alongside the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere. The visible-light images were taken on May 9 and 10 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. (Image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Wong and I. de Pater (University of California, Berkeley))

A third redspot has appeared on Jupiter in what astronomers called a case of the planetarymeasles.

Astronomersspotted the new storm — a distant smaller cousin of the GreatRed Spot and Little Red Spot — using the Hubble Space Telescope and W.M.Keck telescope to get both visible-light and near-infrared images.

Turbulent stormsare common in Jupiter?s atmosphere, although the red color in the biggeststorms remains a mystery. The new red spot, announced yesterday, was previouslya white, oval-shaped storm.

One theorysuggests such storms have enough power and size to dredge material from deepbeneath Jupiter?s clouds and lift it to higher altitudes, exposing it to solarultraviolet radiation that changes the color to the now-familiar red.

Earlytelescope observations indicate that the Great Red Spot has lasted somewherebetween 200 and 350 years, while the Little Red Spot appeared in spring 2006.The third red spot was spotted in Hubble and Keck images taken between May 9and May 11 of this year.

The neweststorm may end up merging with the Great Red Spot when the two meet in August,assuming they continue on their current paths, astronomers said. Otherwise theGreat Red Spot may simply shove its smaller cousin aside.

The latestHubble and Keck images also support the idea of Jupiter undergoing globalclimate change. Warming near the giant planet?s equator and cooling at theSouth Pole could be destabilizing the southern hemisphere, causing jet streamsto go haywire and spawn new storms.

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