Oct 5, 2021 - Science

The winds within Jupiter's Great Red Spot are gaining speed

Photo of one side of Jupiter the planet
The Great Red Spot seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI

The winds of one of the most recognizable storms in the solar system — Jupiter's Great Red Spot — are speeding up.

Why it matters: This weather report for another world is possible because the Hubble Space Telescope has been keeping a close eye on the storm for more than 10 years.

What's happening: Scientists using the Hubble have found the winds just inside the bounds of the spot have "increased by up to 8 percent from 2009 to 2020," according to NASA.

  • Wind speeds in the inner area of the storm have slowed down in that time period.
  • The researchers behind the new study aren't sure what's causing that change in wind speed seen over time, but it may have something to do with changes below the planet's cloud tops out of view of the Hubble.
  • "We're talking about such a small change that if you didn’t have 11 years of Hubble data, we wouldn't know it happened," NASA's Amy Simon, who contributed to the research, said in a statement. "With Hubble, we have the precision we need to spot a trend."

The big picture: The Great Red Spot has been seen by people on Earth for 150 years, and this isn't the first time scientists have spotted changes in the huge storm.

  • Over the years, researchers have also found the storm is shrinking and changing its shape from oval to circular.
  • According to NASA, the storm is now 10,000 miles across and still able to fit Earth within it.
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