New Maps Reveal Red Spot Changes and Odd New Features on Jupiter

Posted October 14th, 2015 at 3:46 pm (UTC-5)
2 comments

Scientists have created two new maps of Jupiter with data and images gathered over a nearly 21-hour period on January 19, 2015 by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s high performance Wide Field Camera 3.

The maps are a representation of two nearly continuous rotations of the Jovian planet. The maps and series of images will help scientists gauge the speeds of Jupiter’s winds.

New Portrait Of Jupiter (NASA/ESA/Goddard/UCBerkeley/JPL-Caltech/STScI)

The new maps have also revealed some interesting new features on the giant planet.

“Every time we look at Jupiter, we get tantalizing hints that something really exciting is going on,” said Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland in a NASA release. “This time is no exception.”

Among them is a rare wave that was spotted just north of Jupiter’s equator in an area that is spotted with cyclones and anticyclones – a circular flow around a high pressure area. This mysterious wave had only been seen one other time and that was back in 1979 by Voyager 2 as it made its flyby of the Jovian planet.

Another is an odd and delicate filamentary streamer-like feature that was spotted for the first time at the heart of the Great Red Spot.

Jupiter’s Giant Red Spot is one of the giant planet’s most prominent features. The red spot is actually a giant storm – about 28,000 km long and 14,000 km wide – that spins counterclockwise in planet’s southern hemisphere. Scientists say that the storm, which is similar to a hurricane here on Earth, has been raging for several hundred years.

The scientists studying the new maps said that these streamers were seen twisting and turning as they were buffeted by the red spot’s powerful storm at speeds of 150 meters per second or more.

The new series of Hubble images also verified previous observations that the Great Red Spot is continuing to get smaller and more circular in shape.

In Jupiter’s North Equatorial Belt, scientists spotted a rare wave that had been seen there only once before. It is similar to a wave that sometimes occurs in Earth’s atmosphere when cyclones are forming. This false-color close-up of Jupiter shows cyclones (arrows) and the wave (vertical lines). (NASA/ESA/Goddard/UCBerkeley/JPL-Caltech/STScI)

In Jupiter’s North Equatorial Belt, scientists spotted a rare wave that had been seen there only once before. It is similar to a wave that sometimes occurs in Earth’s atmosphere when cyclones are forming. This false-color close-up of Jupiter shows cyclones (arrows) and the wave (vertical lines).
(NASA/ESA/Goddard/UCBerkeley/JPL-Caltech/STScI)

The Hubble image gathering and map creation are part of a program called the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program.

Hubble has also gathered images for maps of two other outer planets – Neptune and Uranus – as part of the OPAL program.

The program will image and create new maps of these planets annually.

NASA said that Saturn will be added to the OPAL planet survey in a couple of years.

“The collection of maps that we will build up over time will not only help scientists understand the atmospheres of our giant planets, but also the atmospheres of planets being discovered around other stars, and Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, too,” said co-author Michael H. Wong of the University of California, Berkeley.

The first results from the OPAL program’s 2015 Jupiter survey has been published in the Astrophysical Journal and is available online.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

2 responses to “New Maps Reveal Red Spot Changes and Odd New Features on Jupiter”

  1. Just A Nerd says:

    What is the oblong spot in the northern hemisphere?

  2. I believe that NASA must be supported and vilified.What they are doing is uplifting the knowledge which have to another level.However what is so unfortunate is that fact that most Astronomers do not seem to recognise the book of Job in the bible and some primitive African stories.Because of the following;
    1.In the job God is spoken(mistakenly)by one of job’s friends of being incapable of seeing through the darkness above.Does it mean that we have other universes.And he sends rain on the land where no man lives.
    2.In my community there exist a story which says that up here there is a world that has only plant life
    May be all these are nonsense. Mange’sa which is mars that bright which our people saw before the sunset hard strange people.
    Did the world know that this people-KISII in south western Kenya were also neurosurgeons with herbs that controlled severe bleeding within seconds?.That when the under world rumbled to herald the beginning of the rain season our people said the sea undreground is being troubled by the gods?.We could go up there looking for out there for a lot of information without knowing that we have it here.
    From these would anybody be wrong to deduce that forces from the cosmos triggered life on earth?
    AND NOBODY HAS EVER TOLD US WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO RELIGION IF INTELLIGENT LIFE IS FOUND IN SPACE?