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Emily LakdawallaJuly 18, 2008

Jupiter's Little Red Spot makes a second safe trip past the Great one

The Hubble team released a montage of three images of Jupiter today, showing the dance of three red spots in the southern hemisphere of Jupiter. A three-image montage begs to be animated, so here it is:

Three red spots on Jupiter

NASA, ESA, and A. Simon-Miller (NASA GSFC)

Three red spots on Jupiter
hree images of Jupiter taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in May, June, and July 2008 show three red spots mixing it up. All three red spots are anticyclonic storms. The storms move along the boundaries between Jupiter's belts and zones at different speeds, so confrontations are inevitable. These images document the fact that the Little Red Spot moved past the Great Red Spot relatively unscathed, but the same wasn't true for a new, "baby red spot," located at a latitude in between the two. After the baby spot's encounter with the Great Spot, it has lots its color and appears deformed.
It seems the Little Red Spot is big enough, and far enough from the Great Red Spot, to survive the occasional passage past its bigger brother unscathed. (Here's what I wrote about the first passage.) But a new little baby red spot seems to have been eaten! Poor thing. Such meals may be what keeps the Great Red Spot so stable over such a long period of time.

Although Hubble's are the highest quality photos out there, for lengthy temporal coverage of all such events on Jupiter you can't beat amateur astronomer Christopher Go's website. He's got many, many more than three images of the changing southern hemisphere storms covering the same time period.

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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