Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been a source of intrigue and mystery for amateur and professional star-gazers alike, possibly more so than the planet itself. Theorists have speculated the Great Red Spot is a product of chemicals gathering underneath its surface, as well as an array of other possibilities. However, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been able to recreate the red spot, and has offered a new revelation in regards to its existence.
Data collected from the December 2000 flyby during the NASA Cassini mission has undergone extensive research and experimentation. Along with some ground based experiments, NASA has determined the molecular breakup of the Great Red Spot and has used the information to recreate the spot, including its iconic color. The surprising results have revealed the source of the color to be a product of the sun, resulting in a sunburn on Jupiter, according to Forbes.
Kevin Baines, of the Cassini team, is a planetary scientist who reported a new hypothesis regarding the Great Red Spot during a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) in Tucson.
“The Red Spot reaches a very high altitude; about 50,000 ft higher than other [nearby] clouds,. The sunlight is more powerful and direct and this is the one place on Jupiter where you have this high altitude supply of ammonia.”
The Great Red Spot is created by a vicious storm that rages underneath, with constant winds of around 100 miles per hour. As a result, ammonia particles are flung upward where they gather and create the Great Red Spot. According to Fox News, an expert provided a hint at what the clouds might look like underneath the Great Red Spot.
“Under the reddish ‘sunburn’ the clouds are probably whitish or grayish.”
The new hypothesis has changed the way scientists think about the Great Red Spot, and provides new fuel to further understand its existence. It is known that Jupiter’s Red Spot is the product of two cloud bands that travel in opposing directions. However, its ability to remain intact for hundreds of known years has baffled astronomers. Knowing the chemical make up of the Great Red Spot will allow further testing and hopefully new developments in its existence.
The discovery ranks up with Pluto’s demotion from a planet, as chatter has echoed throughout the scientific community. Each discovery that changes the way an individual thinks about a celestial object becomes fodder for more discovery and innovation.
What do you think about the discovery? Does it take away some of the romance from the Great Red Spot’s existence?
[Photo Courtesy: Mashable]