Buy the Jupiter's Ancient Storm space photo.
High quality Hubble picture, slide, or Duratrans backlit transparency. NASA photograph H99-29
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Click to see selection as Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) - August 6, 1999
When 17th-century astronomers first turned their telescopes to Jupiter, they
noted a conspicuous reddish spot on the giant planet. This Great Red Spot is
still present in Jupiter's atmosphere, more than 300 years later. It is now
known that it is a vast storm, spinning like a cyclone. Unlike a low-pressure
hurricane in the Caribbean Sea, however, the Red Spot rotates in a
counterclockwise direction, showing that it is a high-pressure system. Winds
inside this Jovian storm reach speeds of about 270 mph.
The Red Spot is the largest known storm in the Solar System. With a
diameter of 15,400 miles, it is almost twice the size of the entire
Earth and one-sixth the diameter of Jupiter itself.
The long lifetime of the Red Spot may be due to the fact that Jupiter is
a gaseous planet. It lacks a solid surface, which would dissipate the
storm's energy, much as happens when a hurricane makes landfall on the
Earth. However, the Red Spot does change its shape, size, and color,
sometimes dramatically. Such changes are demonstrated in high-resolution
Wide Field and Planetary Cameras 1 & 2 images of Jupiter obtained by
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, and presented here by the Hubble Heritage
Project team. The mosaic presents a series of pictures of the Red Spot
obtained by Hubble between 1992 and 1999.
Astronomers study weather phenomena on other planets in order to gain a
greater understanding of our own Earth's climate. Lacking a solid
surface, Jupiter provides us with a laboratory experiment for observing
weather phenomena under very different conditions than those prevailing
on Earth. This knowledge can also be applied to places in the Earth's
atmosphere that are over deep oceans, making them more similar to
Jupiter's deep atmosphere.
The Hubble images were originally collected by Amy Simon (Cornell U.),
Reta Beebe (NMSU), Heidi Hammel (Space Science Institute, MIT),
and their collaborators, and have been prepared for presentation by the
Hubble Heritage Team.
August 5, 1999
Image Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA/NASA) and
Amy Simon (Cornell U.).