back to article If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking, please speak up

The winds whirring round the outer edge of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot have grown more powerful over the past decade, reaching speeds of at least 400 miles per hour, the Hubble Space Telescope has shown. Astronomers have spent more than 150 years observing Jupiter’s iconic feature, a gigantic oval-shaped splodge measuring 10,000- …

  1. Steve K

    Reg Units

    With this being a UK site, comparisons to the size of Rhode Island are not really illustrative......

    75 miles is 5491.5163 brontosaurus

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Reg Units

      "With this being a UK site"

      ElReg doesn't seem to think so ... "The Register is a leading and trusted global online enterprise technology news publication" is the way they put it.

      1. Uncle Slacky
        Joke

        Re: Reg Units

        Never heard of "Global Britain"?

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Re: Reg Units

          We were gonna go global but unfortunately didn't have a skilled driver and ran out of fuel in our own territorial waters.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Reg Units

          Is Boris claiming Global Britain, definitive proof that the Earth is flat ?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Reg Units

          I thought it was now Galactic Britain?

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Reg Units

            I'm too sexy for my Galaxy

            by Right said Boris

            1. msobkow Silver badge

              Re: Reg Units

              You need to upgrade your Samsung then... a grand or two for the top-end model will do nicely.

              Please pay your tithe at the door, and one will be shipped to you in six months when the parts backlog abates... :P

        4. stiine Silver badge

          Re: Reg Units

          Wasn't it Britannia?

    2. Jim Mitchell

      Re: Reg Units

      But Rhode Island was at one point part of the extended UK.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Reg Units

        The extremely outer Hebrides ?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reg Units..not quite

        Actually Rhode Island was once one of His Britannic Majesties Colonies Across the Seas but never part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and other sundry odds and sods.

        Although I believe there was some argy bargy at the time from Massachusetts claiming Rhode Island like most of Connecticut was actually their and still part of Massachusetts. The Bay Colony. Most of the initial settlers in RI and CT having bailed from MA seeing as so many in MA were such a royal pain in the a*se.

        Some things never change..

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Reg Units..not quite

          Rhode Island was attached to Scotland once upon a time, before this new fangled Atlantic Ocean

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Reg Units..not quite

            Well RI was part of Avalonia which had large chunks of the British Isles at the other end. Minus most of Scotland. The Scottish bits only joined up in Laurentia which then toyed with being in several super continents but then the inevitable spit happened with the various members having solo careers or joining other groups. The British Isles joining the Eurasian combo whereas RI and the rest of New England struck out on tour with the new North American plate. Quickly putting a lot of sea-floor spreading between itself and its old neighbors.

            So RI never really attached to Scotland. They just traveled in the same tour bus for a short period of time. Geologically speaking.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking, please speak up

    "If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking, please speak up"

    The bath water is almost all drained out?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The bath water is almost all drained out?

      Either that, or the fuelling process of the plasma cannon is now nearly complete ...

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: The bath water is almost all drained out?

        Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational planet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational planet.

          "That's no gas giant ...."

          /gulp

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Astronomical chaos

      Might just be a butterfly in Brazil flapping it's wings...

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking

      all bad jokes aside an ice skater spins faster with arms pulled inwards. Something about centripetal force and rotational momentum.

      so as the spot gets smaller... the winds spin it faster maybe?

      (I suppose it depends on whether we're looking at a hurricane or the top of a massive tornado)

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking

        That's what always gets me. What the hell's _underneath_ there, to have caused this huge anomaly in the atmosphere so consistently for so long a time?

        1. DJV Silver badge

          Re: If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking

          Pete Burns of Dead or Alive still "spinning around" in his grave?

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking

        all bad jokes aside an ice skater spins faster with arms pulled inwards. Something about centripetal force and rotational momentum.

        That would seem to be the case. I vaguely remember my high school science teacher explaining it as a large storm system. But he wrote it off his explanation as just a "guess".

        Is it possible the larger size of Jupiter compared to Earth not only makes the "storm" bigger but also last longer? Then we need to know why it is red? Is the planet covered in red soil?

        1. Geez Money

          Re: If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking

          It's the lack of interaction with a solid surface that keeps them going from what I understand. The gas giants don't really have surfaces so much as they gradually become denser fluids.

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Re: If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking

            Yeah, that's the theory. A problem with it, though, is that the spot has been effectively stationary for hundreds of years, implying that something lower is essentially static and thusly impliedly effectively solid. Plus we have this continuous upwelling of red fluid at its core.

            It's strongly reminiscent of a volcano. Which would suggest some sort of crust over something fluid(ish) and under pressure, venting through a weak spot; the red being the underlying sub-sub-stratum of fluid.

            So the red spot implies that the theory of gas giants being relatively homogeneously gas all the way down is wrong. OR that there is some gas which (a) separates out naturally by different weight, AND under pressure becomes so viscous as to be essentially solid but without undergoing the phase change to soar in density/collapse in volume by becoming liquid or solid OR if it has, it's still lighter than the (red) gas beneath it.

            Fascinating stuff. We live, on Earth, in a staggeringly tiny sliver of physical reality's variations. I want to EXPLORE, dammit!

            1. trindflo Bronze badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking

              I'd like to get smarter, so please disabuse me of my misunderstandings.

              I was just looking at the Voyager I imaging of the spot (a time lapsed image taken each rotation of the planet so that the spot appears stationary with respect to the spacecraft). From that imaging it appears there are several laminar flows on the planet all traveling West to East (implying a planetary rotation that matches Earth's) and one very dark flow just north of the spot in the contrary direction (East to West).

              Doesn't a vortex tend to form when two contrary currents pass by each other? In my ignorance, I would be looking for the cause of that apparent East to West (relative to the spot) flow and expect the spot to be driven and controlled by the intensity of those currents.

              1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                Re: If anyone can explain why Jupiter's Great Red Spot is spinning faster and shrinking

                But then you'd expect the spot to move, and you'd expect lots of spots.

  3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    It's caused by maths...

    1 : 4 : 9.

    Just sayin'...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's caused by maths...

      its round not square

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: its round not square

        \pi r^2

      2. WonkoTheSane
        Alien

        Re: It's caused by maths...

        ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS

        EXCEPT EUROPA

        ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE

        USE THEM TOGETHER

        USE THEM IN PEACE

        1. He's Dead Jim

          Re: It's caused by maths...

          i was just gonna post that lol

          first thing that came to mind when i read the title nevermind the story.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zKqAbfxFsQ

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3D not 2D

    It's a twister.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: 3D not 2D

      As I recall, apparently a system actually needs to be quasi-2D or else such weather features have no stability; so it's allowed a thickness (here height), but it has to be a thin thickness; but perhaps being attached to a boundary also helps. I forget the mathematical details, but this is why (e.g.) weather systems (in the earth's thin atmosphere) are much more persistent than turbulent motions in volume, which rapidly cascade down to smaller scales and dissipate.

  5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    It's a hurricane?

    Jupiter's a lot bigger than the Earth, the hurricanes are bigger and last longer maybe? Perhaps it will eventually disappear and another one will form again in a few tens of thousands of years?

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: It's a hurricane?

      Yes. For a hurricane to form you need a source of heat heating the area of low pressure air from below.

      On Earth that heat comes from the oceans, so as hurricanes reach land their source of heat disappears and they weaken and dissipate.

      Because Jupiter doesn't have a solid surface, it's most probably heat from the liquid core that is fuelling this storm and helping to sustain it almost indefinitely.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: It's a hurricane?

        also you have fastest spinning at the equator, and in the 'hurricane region' the differences in speed (over small latitude changes) are the highest. So you also have slow vs fast air, coupled with (probable) liquid core, solar heating, and not a whole lot of possible things to slow it down (like land masses and a relatively thinner atmosphere that you find on Earth).

        And the discoloration of the red spot may affect temperature of things it 'shadows'. be of a different mass than the rest of the atmosphere, etc. etc. all contributing to its formation and behavior.

  6. Steve Kerr
    Coat

    Green energy

    All we need to do is install a wind farm.

    Problem solved.

    Not sure which problem but it's solved.

    kudos though for this, very interesting read - didn't realise that there had been astromonical views of this in the 1880's.

    1. Draco
      Windows

      Re: Green energy

      The first "official" observation of the Great Red Spot was in 1831 by Samuel Heinrich Schwabe.

      However, there were earlier reports of spots on Jupiter. Robert Hooke observed on 9 May 1664 "a small spot in the biggest of the 3 obscurer Belts of Jupiter".

      This was later, apparently confirmed by Giovanni Cassini: "Besides that Transient Shadow last mentioned, there hath been observed, by Mr. Hook first ... and since by M. Cassini, a permanent Spot in the Disque of Jupiter."

      Both are recorded in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 1666. Pages 3 and 143, respectively.

      https://archive.org/details/Philosophicaltr1Roya/page/2/mode/2up

      [The quotes given have been "modernized" by replacing use of the 'long s' with the more commonly used 's' we are familiar with. https://faqbite.com/why/why-did-people-write-f-instead-of-s-in-old-books/]

      You can also see what looks like the Red Spot in Donato Creti's 1711 Astronomical canvas featuring Jupiter. He painted a series of 8 canvases - each featuring one of the the 5 known planets, the sun, the moon, and a comet in the background - using the best available knowledge of these bodies at the time.

      http://images.zeno.org/Kunstwerke/I/big/77j538a.jpg

      1. xeroks

        Re: Green energy

        "Besides that Transient Shadow last mentioned, there hath been observed, by Mr. Hook first ... and since by M. Cassini, a permanent Spot in the Disque of Jupiter."

        I bet Neal Stephenson wishes he knew about this factoid while he was writing his Baroque Cycle books. It could have taken things in a very different direction.

  7. Jonathon Green
    Alien

    All these worlds are yours.

    Except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: All these worlds are yours.

      Upvoted for the Arthur C Clarke reference (not sure why you got the downvotes)

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: All these worlds are yours.

        "not sure why you got the downvotes"

        Inability to differentiate Europa and Europe?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: All these worlds are yours.

          But do you think we might be allowed to install orbital billboards advertising for HGV drivers? :-)

          1. msobkow Silver badge

            Re: All these worlds are yours.

            The dungeon runner takes all die from all players and rolls them together three times to calculate the damage the monolith does to your billboards and other "infrastructure"....

    2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: All these worlds are yours.

      > All these worlds are yours.

      > Except Europa. Attempt no landing there.

      Arthur C. Clarke, early Brexitear.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: All these worlds are yours.

        It was a _joke_, guys! Jeez...

        1. jake Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: All these worlds are yours.

          I was going to make a similar comment, along the lines of "It's McCarthy spinning faster and faster because of all the Commie sympathizers in today's Republican Party leadership", but I thought better of it.

          Tough crowd 'round here. Have a beer.

          "ElReg is infested with anonymous commentards. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Moderators as being members of the Anonymous Cowards who nevertheless are still writing and sticking their thumbs down in the ElReg forums."

  8. Friendly Neighbourhood Coder Dan

    Storm = natural disaster?

    I heard that there are ancient books explaining that storms and the likes are caused by stroppy invisible entities when they get offended for nonsensical reasons...

    If that is the case, then the parties in that region of Jupiter must really be something else...

    1. Man inna barrel

      Re: Storm = natural disaster?

      The Jupiterians must be praying to the wrong gods. There should be a Christian mission sent to Jupiter, to correct their sinful ways. The missionaries are not expected to return to Earth.

  9. MisterHappy

    Aliens

    It's aliens right? It's always aliens.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Aliens

      No, it's always DNS. And this is what happens when your routing gets seriously screwed up.

      Now, which potential future On Call applicant is willing to wade into the eye of the storm to fix things?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aliens

        It's not aliens, it's just climate change.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Angel

        Re: Aliens

        Not DNS.

        Someone on Jupiter used Reply All to comment on a planetary memo and it generated an email storm.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Aliens

          "[...] and it generated an email storm."

          To which all recipients keep doing "Reply All". Almost a lemon tissues scenario.

  10. hatti

    Increase in wind speed

    The increase in wind speed is due to an increase in tentacled clientele at the Europa Io tandoori and their new chefs delightful dishes.

    1. UCAP Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Increase in wind speed

      New on the menu: Human Tikka Masala

      I'll get my coat ...

  11. DarkwavePunk

    Oddly enough...

    I was just reading this:

    https://news.fsu.edu/news/science-technology/2021/09/21/engineering-researchers-develop-new-explanation-for-formation-of-vortices-in-2d-superfluid/

    “Identifying the true mechanism for the spontaneous formation of Onsager vortices in 2D BECs represents a major progress in our understanding of 2D superfluid turbulence,” Guo said. “Our findings about the point vortices on a sphere may represent a conceptually interesting model of a planetary atmosphere, and these findings can be tested experimentally at NASA’s space laboratory.”

  12. Dr_N Silver badge
    Alien

    Strange things on Jupiter?

    It has to be the Biogs. Call for Dan Dare.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spots disappearing - Sign of leaving adolescence?

    Ah Jupiter is all grown up, next it will be caught growing hair in strange places

  14. Management Order

    Proto Molecule is about to launch.

    Massive gate to pocket universe appearing soon.

  15. Geraint Jones

    "We're talking about such a small change that if you didn’t have eleven years of Hubble data," said Amy Simon, a planetary scientist working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

    We can infer the end of that sentence, but does the writer want to fill us in on the rest of what Amy Simon said, just for closure?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      That's a Jovian Pause

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uh oh

    I think its the visible side effects of ongoing attempts by deep-dwelling denizens to put tentacles in space.

    That or a long term project to counteract global cooling by either spiralling the planet inwards or ejecting large gobs of material at the sun in order to turn it up a bit.

    Or (and I think this is less likely), it could be a cunning plan to slow down the planet's rotation before they all get too giddy and start throwing up.

  17. adam 40 Silver badge

    Monolith

    Monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths monoliths......

  18. Douchus McBagg

    scream if you want to go faster

    you know that thing where you spin on a chair with your arms/legs out and and when you tuck them in you go faster....

    is it just doing that and going "WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!"?

  19. Draylynn

    Wild guess from an uneducated potato...

    Red tends to show up a lot with the presence of iron, eventually, it's got to run out of iron or whatever is causing the red hue to be thrown up to the surface, no? (Smaller spot)

    Compared to a lot of other atmospheric particles and gasses, iron is also quite heavy, less of it allows the wind to speed up even more, no?

    The spot is extremely hot, it doesn't move, so... Whatever is down there at the surface is likely to be getting more exhausted? Like a fissure or volcano or no? The behaviour is not that dissimilar from watching water whirlpool down a sink drain; With the whirlpool getting smaller and smaller, reaching maximum velocity until it collapses.

    Then ignoring accounts for solar activities, like, the planets in general warming up as we pass a band of high-energy space with our galaxy (because we do not have a 'fixed' point in space, not even remotely) with our altered geomagnetic field thanks to human interference (satellites and the what not) Jupiter and it's moons have also been pummelled by it's powerful aurora to generate immense belts of heat... So...

    Jupiter undergoing climate change? But I am not well versed on the subject, I am but potato. (O,, o)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Would spinning iron cause detectable electro-magnetic effects? Jupiter has an enormous magnetosphere - the largest in our planetary system..

  20. tttito

    What a question!

    Climate change, obviously.

  21. Johnny Canuck

    My 3 guesses

    1.Cthulhu awakening.

    2.Solar fuse is burning down (when it stops Jupiter becomes a small star).

    3.Planetary acne.

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: My 3 guesses

      #2 would be interesting. Would we survive?

  22. jamesdagger

    UllaAaAaAaAaAa

    The chances of anything coming from Mars, were a million to one they said.

    Cuz they're on Jupiter mate

  23. msobkow Silver badge

    It takes a pot the size of Jupiter a while to come to a boil... imagine the raw energy it takes to power something the size of that storm! Mankind's TOTAL energy needs in 2021 are *dwarfed* by the Jupiter-scale lightning alone of that storm...

  24. ian 22
    Meh

    Pay no attention

    Jupiter is winding us up…

  25. Dwarf

    Spot Cream

    Perhaps someone fired a Clearasil missile at it ?

  26. Norman123

    WMD

    That's where Saddam hid his WMDs. That is why it is spinning faster, getting ready to strike W and his cronies any day now....

  27. Winkypop Silver badge
    Windows

    Advertising

    Jupiter pizza

    Best in the galaxy

  28. croc

    It is spinning faster BECAUSE it is shrinking... But not losing mass.

  29. Sam Therapy

    The internal heat source is someone cryptocoin mining on Jupiter. Obviously.

  30. tip pc Silver badge
    Coat

    Obviously climate change!!

    Jupiters spot is both speeding up and getting smaller.

    The climate of Jupiter has obviously changed over the years.

    clearly something we’ve done on this planet is causing what we see on Jupiter.

    We must do something and do it soon. It must be something on a global scale and something everyone must contribute to.

    It’s not a punishment but if we don’t do it it’ll have a detrimental and catastrophic impact in the next 10 years!! We’ve already seen the situation change for the worse over the last 10 years so it’s undeniable it’ll continue to change.

    We must act now in unison to ward off any future changes.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obviously down to CO2 emissions

    Or Brexit.

    Whatever

  32. Swarthy Silver badge
    Alien

    It's about to hatch

    The red spot is where the beak is breaking thru

  33. Andy 97

    Expect the following:

    ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA

    ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE

    USE THEM TOGETHER

    USE THEM IN PEACE

    * Yes I know the spot grew in the story.

  34. Frumious Bandersnatch

    you know ...

    Just your usual Storm and Drain ...

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