Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and it’s a gas giant with wild vortexes raging inside of it. One of those storms that caught the attention of most scientists and hobbyist astronomers is the Great Red Spot, which has been actually raging for centuries. However, according to a report, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot will be vanquished within the next few decades, and will remain nothing but a memory.
We have been able to see Jupiter clearly thanks to NASA’s $1 billion Juno spacecraft which orbits the gas giant and took wonderful photos of the planet, including its huge vortex back in July of last year. Those were the clearest and closest images we have ever received of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Even the scientists were stunned by the details provided by the spacecraft.
The storm is actually wider than the whole planet Earth, and it started raging back in the 1600s, most likely. This sounds like a pretty long time, especially since the longest recorded storm on Earth lasted only 31 days – Hurricane John back in 1994.
When asked why Jupiter’s storms last so long, Glenn Orton, lead Juno mission team member and planetary scientist at NASA JPL told Business Insider in an email, “They don’t, at least not all of them.”
“Think of the GRS [Great Red Spot] as a spinning wheel that keeps on spinning because it’s caught between two conveyor belts that are moving in opposite directions. The GRS is stable and long-lived, because it’s ‘wedged’ between two jet streams that are moving in opposite directions,” he explained to Business Insider.
Juno will get to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and take photos of it in April 2018, and then again in July and September of 2019, and most likely in December 2020. It’s important to note though, that the view will not be as detailed as it was when it flew by in July 2017.
“[W]e’re not planning currently ever to come as close without changing the orbit from its current configuration,” Orton said. “This also assumes that the GRS maintains its current drift rate in Jupiter’s atmosphere.”
Unlike Jupiter, Earth doesn’t have storms that last for hundreds of years, considering its not a gas giant and doesn’t have tens of thousands of miles worth of atmosphere like Jupiter has.
The dynamic atmosphere of our planet interacts with features like oceans and land. Another reason why is that Earth is much smaller compared to Jupiter and rotates more slowly, while it takes Jupiter roughly 10 hours to rotate on its own axis. Those factors contribute to our planet’s jet streams disrupting vortexes before they get out of control.
However, Orton told Business Insider that although jet streams on Jupiter are different, the Great Red Spot and other long-lasting storms on this gas giant won’t last forever.
“In truth, the GRS has been shrinking for a long time,” he said.
During the late 1800s, the storm was as wide as 30 degrees longitude, Orton told Business Insider, which works out to more than 35,000 miles, about four times the width of our Earth. However, when the Voyager 2 spacecraft passed by Jupiter in 1979, the storm had shrunk to slightly more than twice the width of our planet.
This news comes after it was reported that the dark storm on Neptune is also dying, according to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope’s observations. The storm on the farthest planet of our solar system is as large as one continent on Earth but is estimated that it’ll disappear in a couple of years, according to Space.com.
According to Orton, the Great Red Spot on Jupiter won’t last much longer either.
“The GRS will in a decade or two become the GRC (Great Red Circle),” Orton said. “Maybe sometime after that the GRM” — the Great Red Memory.